UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY TURKEY’S FOREIGN MINISTER; REVISED EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Gozde Bayar
ANKARA (AA) - The EU should see the error of its ways and understand how valuable Turkey will be as a full member of the bloc, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
"We expect the EU to acknowledge its mistakes and understand the value that Turkey’s membership will add to the union. If that happens, we believe that a more productive relationship can be established for both parties," Mevlut Cavusoglu told parliament's Planning and Budget Commission in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Cavusoglu stressed that developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean affect Turkey's relations with the EU.
Some member countries bring their bilateral problems with Turkey to the EU, he said, adding that those countries are using a "membership solidarity mask" against Turkey.
He said most countries see the importance of dialogue with Turkey for Europe's stability.
Turkey, in all its EU contacts, stresses its desire to forge constructive dialogue, Cavusoglu also noted.
Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and its accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections of the Greek Cypriot administration, as well as opposition from Germany and France.
Ankara also says Brussels has failed to keep its promises under the 2016 EU-Turkey migration deal to help migrants and stem further migrant waves.
Turkey currently hosts over 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world's top refugee-hosting country.
On steps taken in the Eastern Mediterranean against Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, he reiterated that Turkey calls for dialogue to solve the dispute.
"But contrary to our call, we faced exclusionary and provocative steps. Therefore, we have taken the initiative in the field to protect our rights without closing the door to dialogue," said Cavusoglu.
"The reason for the deadlock that has been going on for more than half a century in Cyprus is the irreconcilable and distorted mentality of the Greek side. This mentality considers the Turkish Cypriots not equal partners but a minority and wants to share neither power nor the natural resources of the island," he added.
Stressing that Greece has stepped up pressure on ethnic Turks living in the Western Thrace region, he said Turkey will continue to protect the rights of its compatriots.
He said Turkey also continues working with the EU to set up a proposed conference on the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has consistently opposed Greece's efforts to halt Turkish energy exploration and declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean.
Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.
- Relations with US under Biden
Cavusoglu said that despite some differences over such issues as Syria and Libya, Turkey tries to act in consultation and coordination with the US, its NATO ally.
The recent US elections and its political polarization made dialogue to overcome our problems more difficult, he added.
"Elections were held in the US. We will make the necessary effort to put relations back on a positive track based on the strategic interest of both countries," he said.
In this new era, it will be important to turn a new page in economic, political, and security cooperation, he stressed.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been widely recognized as the winner of November’s presidential elections -- including by Turkey -- despite legal challenges by outgoing President Donald Trump.
- Upper Karabakh
Turkey launched an intense diplomatic mobilization as the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia rose in the Upper Karabakh region, and in the wake of a truce ending hostilities there, Cavusoglu said.
"We also support the agreement, which is accepted by Azerbaijan, as it contains elements that can lead to a permanent solution," he said, adding that the pact again confirmed Azerbaijan’s cause and territorial integrity.
Turkey believes the agreement will benefit the whole region and Armenia in the medium and long term, he said, adding that Turkey will be in the field to help implementation of the truce at the request of Azerbaijan.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
After new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, the Armenian army continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and even violated humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
Baku liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from Armenian occupation during the 44-day conflict.
On Nov. 10, the two countries signed a Russia-brokered agreement to end fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.
The truce is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan, and a defeat for Armenia.