Strong rhetoric and maximalist positions from certain EU member countries on issues with high strategic relevance are narrowing the scope for meaningful cooperation with Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said.
“Europe needs constructive strategies prioritizing win-win formulas for Turkey, rather than reactive steps for the sake of EU solidarity and the narrow-minded expectations of a few countries,” Çavuşoğlu said in his article published in news outlet Politico on July 13 titled “EU-Turkey relations are strained but we have common ground to build on.”
The minister stressed on three concrete cases: Leaving Libya at the mercy of a “warlord” Khalifa Haftar was, and remains, a gross mistake, said Çavuşoğlu. Turkey’s technical and training assistance to the legitimate government in Libya upon its request has changed the balance on the ground and increased the viability of diplomatic efforts like the Berlin Conference, he said. Without our assistance, Tripoli would have fallen to a putschist coalition and there would have been a major humanitarian disaster — with spillover effects felt widely in Europe,” he emphasized.
He criticized France, which is backing Haftar, of “making false claims about” an incident involving its warship and Turkish vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean. When those claims were not verified by NATO, Paris withdrew from an important alliance operation, he said and noted, “Others will judge whether that was a good strategic choice.”
Secondly, regarding Syria, Turkey’s presence in the northwestern city of Idlib has prevented a humanitarian catastrophe for around 3.5 million people sequestered into a small territory and subjected to violence by the Syrian regime and its supporters, Çavuşoğlu said. “Our intervention has stopped a massacre and the march of 1 million people to Europe’s southernmost border,” he added.
Thirdly, he mentioned Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, saying, “maximalist and unilateral claims by Greece and Greek Cypriots violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.”
“These three cases are just the latest manifestations of an emerging streak of abuse and estrangement of Turkey through unsustainable policies,” the minister said. Çavuşoğlu also recalled that Turkey has been let down in the EU accession process and in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in 2016.
“Now there is the potential negative multiplier of the coronavirus pandemic, which can generate new instabilities or exacerbate existing ones. We must not be sucked into the maelstrom that is pitting us against each other,” he said.