Turkey-EU ties marred by abuse, estrangement, foreign minister says in op-ed

Turkey’s relations with the European Union are being undermined by an emerging streak of abuse and estrangement, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an op-ed for Politico on Monday.

The strong rhetoric and maximalist positions of certain EU member states were narrowing the scope for meaningful cooperation as Turkey seeks to stabilise its neighbourhood and set it on course toward sustainable peace, stability and development, Çavuşoğlu said.

Çavuşoğlu said Libya, Syria and Cyprus were key issues of mutual concern where Turkey had been treated unfairly.

“These three cases are just the latest manifestations of an emerging streak of abuse and estrangement of Turkey through unsustainable policies,” Çavuşoğlu said. “We have also been let down in the EU accession process and in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in 2016.”

Çavuşoğlu penned the op-ed ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, which was expected to address political tensions with Turkey. EU politicians have accused Turkey of aggressively pursuing its aims in the Mediterranean in contravention of international legal norms. 

In Libya, the EU is practically sanctioning the legitimate government in Tripoli by failing to enforce an arms embargo, allowing opposition leader General Khalifa Haftar to reinforce his mercenaries, Çavuşoğlu said. Meanwhile, France has made false claims about an incident between French and Turkish warships in the Mediterranean, withdrawing from a NATO operation when those allegations were not verified.

In Syria, Turkey has prevented a human catastrophe for 3.5 million people living in the last Syrian opposition stronghold of Libya and stopped a march of 1 million migrants towards Europe’s borders, Çavuşoğlu said.

On Cyprus, “maximalist and unilateral claims by Greece and Greek Cypriots violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“These are unacceptable. Time and again, we have expressed our readiness for a dialogue to find a just, equitable and peaceful solution,” he said. “Unfortunately, the response has been hostility to Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

The EU and the United States have called on Turkey to respect an economic zone around ethnically divided Cyprus and stop drilling for natural gas there. Turkey has also sought to prevent international energy companies from doing so. The Greek Cypriot south is the only internationally-recognized government on the island and is an EU member.

Çavuşoğlu said the Greek and European approach to Cyprus left Turkey with no other choice than to continue drilling and exploration activities for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect its national interests and the equal rights of Turkish Cypriots.