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Turkey says joining EU is still top priority July 21, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Turkey.
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Turkey has moved to calm fears that it is drifting away from the West, asserting that joining the European Union is still its “first and most strategic objective”.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said Turkey was  committed to joining the European Union

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said Turkey was committed to joining the European Union

Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minister, said in London on Thursday prior to a meeting with William Hague, his UK counterpart, that Turkey was continuing to work very hard on its integration into Europe. He acknowledged that Turkey’s accession to the EU had been made harder by opposition from Germany and from France in particular, and by problems over the future of Cyprus, where the dispute with Greece is still very much alive in spite of optimism of a resolution in recent years.

Mr Davutoglu was critical of Western fears that Turkey was turning further to the East, partly as a result of being rebuffed by France and Germany.

The question “Are we losing Turkey?” he said, was an “insulting question”. He said Turkey was seeking to bring Western “soft” powers of peace, mediation and multilateralism to its multiple talks with countries in its region.

Turkey raised doubts in the West about its strategic priorities by attempting recently to strike a deal with Iran on Tehran’s nuclear development programme. Its relations with Israel have plummeted following the Gaza flotilla incident in which eight Turkish citizens and one of dual Turkish-American nationality were killed by Israeli forces. But Mr Davutoglu said his country was pursuing a policy of economic interaction, soft diplomacy and cultural integration with its neighbours. “We are defending European values in the surrounding region,” he said.

Mr Hague, in a speech last week, repeated Britain’s long-standing support for Turkish accession to the EU. Turkey says its frenetic regional diplomacy and high standing in the Muslim world makes it an ideal partner for the EU and the West.

Mr Davutoglu said however that Turkey remained adamantly opposed to the announced Israeli inquiry into the flotilla incident. He said that Turkey was seeking an impartial, independent and outside inquiry into who was responsible for the killings. It wanted those responsible to be held to account. “Without that question being answered there can be no improvement in our relations with Israel,” he said.

Mr Davutoglu recently met Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli industry minister, for secret talks in Brussels over the flotilla. He said that the leak of the talks, and subsequent domestic Israeli outcry, had led to a missed opportunity. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hardline foreign secretary, was furious that the talks had taken place without his knowledge and heavily criticised in public Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.



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