Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday criticized the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) decision to put Turkey on a political monitoring watch list.
Ankara does not recognize the “entirely political” decision, Erdogan told Reuters news agency. Turkey is ready to reconsider its position on joining the European Union, Erdogan said.
EU lawmakers are scheduled to hold a debate Wednesday on relations with Turkey. Turkey remains committed to a stalled accession process to join the 28-member bloc, but Erdogan did not rule out putting the question of whether to join to a referendum.
“If they are not acting sincerely, we have to find a way out. Why should we wait any longer? We are talking about 54 years,” he said. “In 54 years, the EU has never kept a promise to Turkey, has never dealt in a genuine, sincere manner,” the president said.
Erdogan said unfulfilled promises included the EU’s pledge to give Turkey a total of 6 billion euros as part of a refugee response deal. The EU contribution stands at 725 million euros, Erdogan said, as Turkey continues to spend billions of dollars hosting a three-million refugee population displaced due to the Syrian crisis.
“In Europe, things have become very serious in terms of the extent of Islamophobia. The EU is closing its doors on Turkey and Turkey is not closing its doors on anybody,” Erdogan said. The Turkish president said he wasn’t against a referendum on whether to continue the accession process.
“The U.K. asked her people and they voted for Brexit,” he said. “They have peace of mind, they are walking towards a new future.” Recalling a similar referendum in Norway on whether to join the bloc, Erdogan said: “The same thing can be applied for Turkey too.”
The president said the EU was in a “process of dissolution”. “One or two countries cannot keep the EU alive,” Erdogan said. “You need a country like Turkey, a different country symbolizing a different faith, this would make them very strong.
“But the EU member states don’t seem to realize this fact. They are finding it very difficult to absorb a Muslim country like Turkey,” Erdogan added. The human rights body PACE’s decision to monitor Turkey came following an investigation into the country’s democratic institutions.
Erdogan stressed that the ongoing state of emergency and mass suspensions of state employees were measures against terrorist threats in the wake of the deadly July 15 coup attempt. Ankara blames the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) for the defeated putsch, which resulted in 249 deaths. FETO is accused of infiltrating deep into state institutions.
Erdogan said France has now been enforcing a state of emergency for a year and a half since the Nov. 2015 Paris terror attacks, and Sunday’s first round of the country’s presidential elections was held under a state of emergency. Turkish airstrikes against the PKK in Iraq and Syria
Turkey on Tuesday carried out a number of airstrikes against PKK targets in Sinjar, Iraq and Karacok, Syria, killing a total of 70 terrorists. Erdogan said local governments, as well as the U.S. and Russia, had been notified in advance.
The president said it was a “source of sadness for us” that five or six Peshmerga forces were killed in the attack despite the warnings. “The Turkish military’s operation is absolutely not against Peshmerga forces,” Erdogan said.
He said there were approximately 2,000 PKK members in Iraq’s Sinjar, which “we cannot allow to become” a PKK base. Ankara needs to “drain the swamp”, Erdogan said.—Agencies