Western states should not expect Turkey to blindly follow their instructions anymore, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ahead of talks between Turkish and EU officials. He also supported the deal on S-400 missile defense systems with Russia.
Erdogan made a speech against western and, in particular, EU countries that he believes are treating Turkey unfairly, while addressing his party’s lawmakers in Ankara on Tuesday.
“The West wants Turkey to bring about their demands no questions asked… I am sorry to say that Turkey no longer exists,” the Turkish president said, as cited by AP, while his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu was preparing to meet with the EU top foreign officials in Brussels.
Relations between Turkey and the EU have been on the rocks since the Turkish authorities launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent in wake of the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
A brewing diplomatic row between Germany and Turkey worsened in March after several German states refused to host rallies in support of the Turkey’s constitutional referendum that eventually granted the Turkish president more powers in April. The refusal infuriated the Turkish leader, who likened it to the policies of Nazi times. Most recently, the war of words between Ankara and Berlin reignited after Erdogan was denied permission to stage a rally on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.
The arrest of 10 human rights activists, including the head of Turkey’s branch of Amnesty International and German and Swedish citizens on July 5 in a hotel on the Sea of Marmara, soured strained relations even further, with human rights advocates calling on EU leaders to raise the issue with their Turkish counterparts during the talks.
During his speech, Erdogan lashed out at his critics, referring to the detained activists as “agents” and warning European countries against meddling in Turkish internal affairs.
“You’re going to prevent Turkey’s president and ministers from speaking in your country, but your agents are going to swarm in, come to hotels here and break my country up into pieces?” he said, as cited by Bloomberg, vowing retaliation to the countries that infringe upon Turkey’s sovereignty and refuse to do business on equal terms.
Following the meeting in Brussels, Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner in charge of European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, reminded Turkey of the obligation to respect human rights and core democracy values, including the freedom of the press, calling them “basic imperative requirements for any progress toward the European Union.”
Responding to the criticism, Cavusoglu labeled reporters currently on trial in Turkey as “pseudo-journalists who help terrorist activities,” arguing that their actions, as well as that of the arrested soldiers and politicians, contributed to the coup.
“They need to also face the sentences that are necessary,” he said, as cited by Reuters.
‘Nothing to worry about’ – Erdogan on S-400 deal
In an apparent reference to concerns of the US military over a looming purchase by Turkey of Russia’s advanced S-400 anti-missile defense systems, Erdogan reiterated he was looking forward to the deliveries.
“God willing, we’ll see them [missile systems] in our country soon,” the Turkish leader said, as cited by Bloomberg.
He noted that Ankara at first attempted to secure the deal on similar conditions with Washington, but it was never agreed.
“If we can’t get what we want from America, we have to look elsewhere,” he said.
Erdogan has already responded to remarks by Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who said Saturday that the reports of the S-400 purchase are “incorrect” and “would be a concern, were they to do that.”
“Why would it be worrying? Every country needs to take certain measures for its own security,” the Turkish president told journalists at Ankara airport on Monday, as cited by Anadolu news agency.
Russian and Turkish officials have been negotiating the purchase since November 2016 and have repeatedly confirmed that the deal is practically secured save for some financial aspects. Earlier this month, reports emerged that $2.5 billion was agreed as the sum of the contract.