By Ilker Girit
Despite German moves to scrutinize Turkey’s EU membership talks, some of the bloc's foreign ministers on Friday said they wanted to maintain close relations and economic ties with Ankara.
"We should not push Turkey … away. Turkey is a great country, a strategically important country for all of us," Boris Johnson, U.K. Foreign Secretary, told reporters outside an informal meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Estonia.
Johnson said European countries should recognize that Turkey had been experiencing difficult times since the defeated coup attempt last year.
"We are all concerned to make sure Turkey moves in the right direction," Johnson added, talking about European concerns over the rule of law.
European officials have repeatedly raised legal and human rights issues amid widespread investigations by the Turkish authorities into the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which Ankara accuses of having orchestrated the defeated coup attempt.
However, Ankara insists it is acting to maintain security in the country, which has seen hundreds of its citizens killed in terrorist attacks by different groups over the last number of years.
The Turkish government also points to a long-running infiltration campaign by FETO which has affected its police force and legal system.
Also arriving at the meeting was Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian foreign minister, who said it should be "a core interest of the European Union to be able to put together some strategic type of partnership with Turkey".
Szijjarto stated Turkey was "rapidly stretching" its economy and had “a clear intention to be among the top ten economies of the world".
"Not to forget about the fact that the EU-Turkey [migrant] deal has been still working out. It is extremely important to keep this predictable relationship with Turkey, based on mutual respect towards each other," Szijjarto added.
Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said: "It is important for the EU to remain close to Turkey and keep dialogue open, and also to maintain the prospect in the future of Turkey's accession."
Ahead of the informal meeting, Finland’s foreign minister Timo Soini also voiced his country’s support for the continuation of Turkey’s EU membership process.
"I think that it is always useful to have a dialogue," he said and dismissed the idea of cutting negotiations with Turkey.
“If we do not talk to each other, this is not a very constructive way to go forward,” he added.
Lithuania’s foreign minister Linas Linkevicius also turned down recent calls by German politicians to end Turkey’s EU talks, and warned that such a move could have counterproductive consequences.
“We should continue the process and the engagement," he stressed.