By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
Extremists would probably love to hear that Turkey’s relationship with the EU is broken, a senior Turkish minister said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in London, Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik said all statements on freezing or suspending Turkey’s EU negotiations would boost extremists in Europe.
Speaking about German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s recent remarks on freezing arms sales to Turkey, Celik said Ankara used weapons in the fight against Daesh and the PKK; and Gabriel’s remarks indirectly mean weakening Turkey’s fight against terrorism.
Gabriel on Monday said his government put most arms exports to Turkey "on hold” due to recent tensions between Berlin and Ankara.
Celik said: “What does Turkey use those weapons for? For the fight against terrorism, the fight against Daesh and the PKK.
“So, what those sentences indirectly mean is weakening Turkey’s fight against terrorism. This does not harm Turkey. Turkey, as an experienced state in this geography, will provide security in all conditions, but organizations such as Daesh and the PKK are now walking freely in Europe’s capitals.”
The minister also said as Turkey protected its own borders it also defended Europe’s frontiers.
Celik also said lumping radicalism together with Islam was one of the biggest mistakes being seen in Europe:
“Associating radicalism with any religion or ethnic group is something ... the radicals want because then they can say there is a conventional struggle between themselves and the West and [they] become able to create an ideological attraction.”
He was also critical of some European mainstream parties’ use of anti-Turkey rhetoric in domestic politics. Denouncing anti-Turkey propaganda, Celik said those who use Turkey as domestic policy material were playing into the hands of the far-right.
Celik is to meet representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities during his U.K. visit. He said they would like to create awareness about Islamophobia.
He is also set to meet British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Sir Alan Duncan on Tuesday evening.
Celik will join a program at the Chatham House think-tank on Wednesday.
EU accession should not be frozen 'forever'
Speaking later during a debate on Turkish-EU relations at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Johannes Hahn, the commissioner responsible for EU enlargement negotiations, said Turkey can be a sometimes "difficult" but vital strategic partner.
He added the "current trend" in the country and in its relations with individual EU member states should be "reversed".
Dutch social democrat Kati Piri, the parliament's Turkey rapporteur, stressed that MEPs have not voted "once and forever" to close off the prospect of EU membership and that the EU should continue negotiations on an upgraded Customs Union with the country.
*Ayhan Simsek from Berlin and Hajer M'tiri from Paris contributed to this report