Turkey is still keen on joining the European Union, the country’s deputy foreign minister said, clearly telling the bloc “you need us”. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted at the possibility of direct flights between Russia and northern Cyprus, which would likely cause concern in Brussels.
Faruk Kaymakci claimed that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if his country had been a member state.
Mr Kaymakci, the Turkish government’s Director of EU Affairs, spoke to Austrian reporters on the sidelines of the Alpbach European Forum.
Stressing Turkey’s aspirations, he said: “For us, it is a matter of identity and belonging.
“We belong to the West. EU membership will complete this process.”
Almost four out of five Turks wanted to join the bloc, Mr Kaymakci claimed, adding: “Europe needs Turkey’s membership.
“If Turkey had been in the EU, the war in Ukraine could have been prevented.
“Because Turkey makes a difference in the security and defense balance.”
Unlike many current EU27 members, Turkey is a Muslim-majority country.
CONTINUE READING: Five British POWs freed by Russian kidnappers in deal with Saudi
“The clearer the EU perspective, the more reforms you will see. It was the same with other EU enlargements.”
He also took a swipe at Greece and the Greek Cypriots, blaming them for deteriorating relations with Turkey, with disputes including the borders in the Aegean and the ongoing dispute with Cyprus over the northern part of the island and mineral resources in the Turkey sea.
Mr Kaymakci accused the two nations of abusing their veto power in the EU and holding the bloc hostage with their “maximum demands”.
He said: “Most people in the EU tell us that the biggest mistake was to admit the Greek Cypriots into the EU before the conflict is resolved.”
Mr Erdogan was quoted by NTV on Thursday as saying he had spoken to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about launching direct flights from Russia to northern Cyprus.
The breakaway Turkish state on the north side of the divided island is only recognized by Ankara. Flights from Russia would support the local economy given the potential tourism revenue, Mr Erdogan said.
He explained: “If direct flights from Russia start to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, we will of course be happy.”
The surge in tourism would lead to a “serious jump in the economy,” he added.
Turkish media reported that the Turkish Cypriot Minister of Transport said that two Russian airlines are interested in starting flights to the new Ercan Airport, which will open on November 15.
Cyprus was divided in a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a brief Greek-inspired coup.
Since then, Cyprus has been governed by a Greek Cypriot administration in the south, which does not recognize Ankara.
(Supplementary reporting by Monika Pallenberg)