ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – It is Turkey’s explicit objective to become a member of the European Union in less than five years, before 2023, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag told German media in a Wednesday interview, despite a growing gap between the sides over Ankara’s worsening image.
2023 is the Turkish Republic’s centennial anniversary, and Akdag said its symbolic value counted for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration to make it to the EU that year.
“Turkey deserves to join the EU earlier than any other candidate. But political reasons prevent that,” he said in the interview with the German daily Die Welt.
When asked about an ongoing government crackdown on the opposition, jailed journalists, and other critical voices including over 1,000 civil servants purged, the Turkish minister justified those policies, citing terrorism and the coup attempt two years ago.
He then went on blaming Europe and specifically Germany for not cooperating.
“We are disappointed by Europeans. We expect them to do their homework. When a terrorist attack takes place in a European country, all countries come together and show solidarity. In July 2016, we had a coup attempt, 251 people died in one night. And many of these putschists are in European countries, including Germany. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Hundreds of Turkish and Kurdish dissenters have found refuge in Germany whose government has refused to abide by requests from Ankara to extradite them.
On Turkey’s invasion of the region of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan, Akdag said his country did not intend to hand its control back to the Syrian state, on the grounds President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was not a “democratic government.”
Russia, which gave the NATO member Turkey the green light to stage the assault earlier this year on Afrin, has called on the Erdogan administration to leave the region for Assad.
“It is completely inconceivable that we will return Afrin to the Assad government. That’s not a democratic government. We do not want to settle in Afrin long term. Our only goal is to defend Turkey’s security in the fight against terrorist Kurdish groups like the YPG and to return the area to the Syrian people as soon as possible,” he said.
After capturing it from US-armed Kurdish forces, and ousting the local Kurdish self-rule there, Turkey promised to give Afrin “back to its rightful owners,” who Erdogan said were Arabs.
Turkey continues to facilitate the busing in of thousands of Sunni Arabs—themselves displaced from Damascus by Russian and Syrian army attacks—and armed Islamist factions into Afrin.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany