Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday dismissed concerns that his country was moving away from the west as “nonsense,” insisting that Ankara’s main strategic objective was
to join the European Union.
The comments from Ahmet Davutoglu came as Barack Obama, US president, warned that it was “natural” for Turkey to look for alliances elsewhere if it was not made
to feel part of Europe.
should not be seen as “a question of a country shifting axis or not”. He
added: “Our integration process into the EU is the most strategic
objective of Turkey. Nobody can blame Turkey for the delay in this
Ankara, he said, was not looking to escalate the crisis with Israel either, but it was demanding accountability for an Israeli assault in international waters that left nine Turks dead.
He made clear relations with Israel would not improve without an independent and international investigation into the raid. Israel has only conceded
an internal inquiry led by an Israeli judge.
“Somebody cannot be the accused, the prosecutor and the judge at the same time,” said Mr Davutoglu.
“The Turkish-Israel relation is at a very critical stage, and what will be happening in the coming weeks and months will be based on the Israel attitude . . . There will be no normalisation;
definitely our relations will be reviewed by us, from all perspectives.”
Concerns over the foreign policy direction of the neo-Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been raised at home and abroad, as Ankara’s
negotiations with the EU have stalled. The government has built closer
ties with Syria, Iraq and Iran, while relations with Israel have reached
a low point.
The US was particularly frustrated by a deal that Turkey and Brazil negotiated in Tehran last month to exchange nuclear fuel.
Although the agreement was based on proposals that Washington itself had promoted, the Obama administration saw it as an attempt to derail a United Nations resolution that was set to impose new
sanctions on Iran. Turkey and Brazil were the only Security Council
members to vote against the resolution.
Mr Obama hinted in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera that European powers’ resistance to Turkey’s EU membership was to blame for the perceived
shift in Ankara’s foreign policy.
Stressing Turkey’s importance as a democracy with an expanding economy, he said it was a “critically important model for other Muslim countries in the region”.
But Mr Davutoglu sought to offer reassurance, saying that Turkey was simply using western values of engagement and soft power to further a goal of
bringing stability to its wider neighbourhood.
He said that Turkey’s foreign policy should be seen as an asset, especially at a time when the risk of renewed conflict in the Middle East was growing.
“Unfortunately, I am very, very concerned about the coming months in our region,” he said, citing the absence of a credible diplomatic process in Iran and
the Arab-Israeli conflict, the fragility of Lebanon’s politics, and the
lack of a new government in Iraq.
“These are all very fragile [situations],” he said. “Now we have to act very responsibly, all together.”
Turkey, he added, had taken steps to address its dispute with Israel, pointing to the talks he held last week with an Israeli cabinet minister in Brussels.
But he described this as a “missed opportunity” because the occurrence of the supposedly secret meeting was immediately leaked to the media by Israel.