UPDATED WITH MORE REMARKS
By Burak Bir
ANKARA (AA) - Critics of Turkish foreign policy should stop accusing Ankara and instead oppose the conditions in the region that make it necessary for Turkey to champion peace and justice, said the nation’s president on Thursday.
"They say, 'Why is Turkey involved in Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia?” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's provincial heads at party headquarters in the capital Ankara.
But, he added, "If Turkey retreats, will Syria enjoy peace and freedom?...
“If Turkey turns its back to what is happening in Libya, will putschists hand over power to the legitimate government?”
Referring to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has tried to block Turkey’s foreign policy goals in the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, he said: “If Turkey steps back, will France end its political drift caused by its leader and turn to responsible policy?”
"If all of these questions can be answered with a realistic and sincere 'yes,' it would become necessary for us to review the policy we follow," said Erdogan.
Erdogan also demanded that the European Union abandon its double standards against Turkey.
Turkey has given support to Libya’s legitimate government based in the capital Tripoli against the putschist warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces left behind mass graves in a recent retreat.
Since 2016 Turkey has also sent troops across its southern border into Syria to eliminate the threat to locals from the terrorist YPG/PKK and prevent them from forming a terrorist corridor next to Turkey.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
- 'Turkey will not surrender to blackmail, banditry'
Speaking later at another event at Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center, Erdogan reiterated that they will not allow anyone to confine Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, to its coast.
The parties involved know that the language of threats does not work and Turkey will not surrender to blackmail or banditry, he stressed.
"Despite the provocations and childish attitudes of the other side, we have always acted with the dignity of our righteousness and being a great state," he highlighted.
"We defend the legitimate rights of our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC] arising from international law in the Eastern Mediterranean," he added.
Stressing the importance of dialogue and the negotiating table for resolving the Eastern Mediterranean issue, Erdogan said that Turkey has always advocated a solution through dialogue, negotiation, and in line with its neighborhood.
Turkey has sent out drill ships into the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its right to the region’s maritime resources against claims that small Greek islands next to Turkey’s coasts deprive Turkey of almost any maritime jurisdiction in the region, despite no country having a longer Mediterranean coastline.
Critics in the EU, notably France, have opposed these efforts, while ignoring terrorist threats near Turkey, illegal arms shipments into Libya fueling the Haftar insurgency, and Greek expansionist efforts to confine Turkey to its coasts using arguments that defy the law and logic.