EU, US engage in blame game over ‘who lost Turkey’ June 24, 2010Posted by Yilan in EU, Turkey, US.
Tags: EU, Turkey, US
The European Union’s top official has disputed a US claim that Europe was responsible for what it sees a shift away from the West and towards the East in Turkey’s foreign policy, saying the US’s policies under former President George W. Bush are to be blamed instead.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, also said that it was necessary to listen to what Turkish officials were saying with respect. “They are extremely sensitive to the way we listen to and respect what they have to propose,” he said in an interview with The New York Times on Monday before this weekend’s G-20 summit meeting in Toronto. “We should adapt our paradigm to the 21st century.”
Many in Europe and in the United States believe NATO member Turkey is drifting away from the West in favor of closer ties with the Islamic world, Russia and China. In remarks earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the blame for the perceived shift on the EU, which has frustrated Turkey by rejecting its membership prospects despite a 2005 decision to begin accession talks with Ankara. “[If Turkey is] moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe, refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought,” Gates said.
Progress on Turkey’s membership talks has been very slow since 2005, amid disputes over Cyprus and the public expression of opposition to Turkish membership on cultural and religious grounds by some European politicians.
Barroso acknowledged that some European positions were not helpful, apparently referring to French and German statements underlining the Christian character of the EU, but added that the EU should continue to pursue eventual Turkish membership.
Commenting on Gates’ accusations, Barroso said he was “surprised” by the remarks from senior US official. “They don’t conform to the facts. The distance Turkey started to show” from NATO partners and the West “started with the invasion of Iraq and the pressure put on Turkey by the previous US administration,” said Barroso.
The Turkish government denies a policy shift away from the West, saying Turkey is simply pursuing a multi-dimensional foreign policy aimed at nurturing good ties with its neighbors in addition to Turkey’s traditional Western partners. But many in the West are worried that “Turkey has been lost” after it brokered, together with Brazil, a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran in an unsuccessful bid to prevent sanctions on the Islamic republic for its nuclear program. Turkey and Brazil later voted against sanctions at the UN Security Council. Critics of Turkey also blame Ankara for a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which killed eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American, saying it was a provocation against Israel.