By Zuhal Demirci
Poland's ambassador to Ankara on Monday said his country had supported Turkey's European Union accession process "since the very beginning."
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Ambassador Maciej Lang cited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's upcoming official visit to Poland, saying: "We attach great value to our ties with Turkey and to President Erdogan’s visit."
Erdogan is to make an official visit to Poland as the guest of his counterpart Andrzej Duda on Tuesday.
Lang said the presidents would discuss bilateral cooperation with an emphasis on economic ties.
Citing long-standing diplomatic relations between Turkey and Poland -- totaling some 603 years -- Lang said: "Turkey has always been an important partner for Poland and now, being NATO members, we have even more shared interests."
The envoy said young Turkish citizens were choosing Poland as their first destination for the pan-European Erasmus student-exchange program and said: "We are extremely proud of this fact and hope that Poland will maintain a well-deserved place in the hearts and minds of young Turks."
"In Poland we pay particular importance to historical ties in the belief that historical experience is an important factor in shaping our current relations with different countries.
“With this belief and good prospects for future successful cooperation, we attach great value to our ties with Turkey and to President Erdogan’s visit." he said.
Ambassador Land said: "Since the very beginning Poland supported Turkey’s accession process to the EU.
“I firmly believe that in spite of various problems and setbacks, Turkey will be able to successfully complete this process.”
In response to how to resolve the refugee crisis, the Polish envoy said "a distinction between refugees, who are entitled to … protection, and economic migrants" must be made.
He said: "Poland has always advocated strongly for genuine and substantial care to be provided to victims of armed conflicts in first safe countries they reach, which will then facilitate their repatriation.
"Since the 14th century Poland has been a destination for people who had to seek a new home, including Muslim Tatars, who enjoyed full religious freedom on our soil and who were able to build mosques and cultivate their traditions.
“In the modern times, Poland remains an open country. We host more than one million migrants from Ukraine whose remittances sent back home provide a substantial contribution to the economy of their native country, afflicted with aggression and occupation of a part of its territory."
Lang also asserted "beyond any doubt" that the EU works hand in hand with Turkey on the refugee issue, but allocations of large sums like €3 billion ($3.5 billion) involve very strict procedures to be followed.
"I fully understand that Turkey wants this assistance to come faster but if it doesn’t, that won’t be caused by a lack of understanding, empathy or a change of heart, but just objective circumstances." he added.
According to a statement by the Turkish presidency, Erdogan is to meet Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and parliament officials.
Various agreements are to be signed during the visit, the statement added.