ANKARA: Turkey accused the EU on Wednesday of “encouraging” the plotters on the night of the July 15 coup in an escalating row that has raised questions over Ankara’s future relationship with the bloc.
A day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a highly-symbolic visit to Russia, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkish people’s confidence in the EU had “unfortunately fallen” in the wake of the coup, saying the bloc “failed a test” on the night of the putsch.
“Let me say openly, this is because the EU adopted a favourable position to the coup (and) encouraged the putschists,” the minister told reporters during a televised briefing in the capital Ankara without expanding further.
He claimed support for the EU — which Turkey has sought to join since the 1960s — had plummeted to some 20 percent.
Relations between Brussels and Ankara have become increasingly strained since Turkey launched a crackdown, imprisoning and dismissing tens of thousands within the military, judiciary and education in the wake of the putsch which it has blamed on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The EU has urged Ankara to act within the rule of law while condemning Erdogan for suggesting the country could bring back the death penalty, abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey’s reforms to join the union.
Ankara has expressed astonishment that no EU official has visited Turkey in the wake of the coup.
Cavusoglu’s comments came a day after Erdogan travelled to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin for the first time since Ankara downed one of Moscow’s warplanes in November, triggering a diplomatic crisis between them.
It was his first foreign trip since the failed coup, but the foreign minister said it was not a move to turn Turkey’s focus to the East.
“Our relations with Russia are not a message to the West. We worked very hard to have good relations with Europe for 15 years,” he said, warning that any deterioration in ties would not be Turkey’s fault.
“If the West one day loses Turkey — whatever our relations with Russia and China — it will be their fault.”
Russia and Turkey would work together on military, foreign affairs and intelligence, he said, stressing that both were united in seeing the need for a political solution in Syria.