ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey hit back on Tuesday at European Union accusations that it has drifted apart from the bloc on foreign policy, saying Ankara had been kept out of decision-making despite making major contributions to EU defense.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday that Turkey, an EU membership candidate, had signed up to less than a third of the bloc’s recent foreign policy positions, compared to some 80 percent in the past.
Speaking during one of the highest-ranking EU visits to Turkey in years, Mogherini said the EU and Ankara need greater “alignment” to tackle threats including Islamic State insurgents who have captured large areas of neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“Turkey makes very important contributions to the EU’s security and defense policies. But until now Turkey was not included in any decision mechanisms related to security and defense,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
“This is actually a contradiction of the EU,” he told a news conference with his Georgian counterpart after being asked if there was a problem regarding policy alignment with the bloc.
Turkey has been negotiating to join the EU since 2005, but progress has been hindered by disputes over the divided island of Cyprus and the resistance of some EU countries to Turkish membership because of a perceived democracy deficit in Ankara.
Cavusoglu said the EU had not made criticism about diplomatic divergences in talks on Monday, nor had the EU made a concrete proposal on the issue. He also cited Turkey’s contribution to EU forces in Mali and the Central African Republic as an example of Ankara’s cooperation.
“If there is a country here which should be doing the reproaching it is Turkey. It both makes important contributions and is kept out of the decision mechanisms.”
The visit by Mogherini and the EU enlargement and humanitarian aid commissioners was aimed at revitalizing ties with Turkey. They urged closer cooperation against Islamic State and pressed Ankara not to undermine EU sanctions imposed on Russia over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
During a visit to Turkey last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow announced it was scrapping the planned South Stream gas pipeline to southeast Europe and named Turkey as its preferred partner for an alternative.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Heinrich