Ankara fully committed to EU membership: Turkish PM

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    The Turkish prime minister said Wednesday Ankara is still committed to getting membership in the EU, adding that a thaw in relations with Russia is not an alternative to Europe.

    Binali Yildirim's remarks came at the Nueva Economia Forum held in Madrid, Spain, where he arrived Tuesday on an official visit.

    He said Turkey had been waiting for its membership in the EU for more than 60 years.

    "We are NATO members. We are from a country that has been waiting for EU membership for more than 60 years.

    "Everyone who applied after us has gained membership.

    “There is an ideological approach to Turkey," Yildirim said.

    Stating that the Turkey-Russia relation is essential for the security of Europe, Yildirim said the EU cannot exclude Russia.

    "Eurasia region should be the center of peace," he said.

    Yildirim said Spain and Turkey understood each other the best in Europe. "Why? Because both Turkey and Spain have suffered terrorism for years. We know what terror does to a country."

    Criticizing some EU states for their support to the PKK terror group and Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Yildirim said: "To upset a great ally like Turkey is not a wise move in terms of the future of the EU.

    Fight against Daesh

    It should be noted that opening up too much space for radical movements is the biggest future threat to Europe."

    The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015.

    Since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children.

    FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

    Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

    On fighting against global terrorism, the Turkish premier said the Daesh terror group is a common problem of the world that requires a joint fight.

    He said Turkey on its own neutralized 3,800 Daesh terrorists in anti-terror operations in Syria's Jarabulus, Azaz, and al-Bab, which helped more than160,000 displaced Syrians to return to their homes.

    He urged international organizations to take more steps to eradicate terrorism, adding that countries cannot solve regional problems by just taking precautions.

    "Turkey has prevented 60,000 foreign fighters from heading to Syria and Iraq. They are coming from western countries. Please think about how big a threat we are facing.

    "We also apprehended 4,500 foreign fighters crossing from Syria, Iraq to Turkey, and put them in prison," Yildirim added.

    Strong bilateral ties

    Meanwhile, Spanish Tourism Minister Alvaro Nadal said: “Turkey is a gate into Asia and the Middle East for Spaniards, while Spain is also used as a gate into Latin America for Turks.”

    Nadal said Turkey and Spain are two important European countries.

    "Both countries have achieved great economic growth. Indeed, both countries have great touristic potentials.”

    He added: "Turkey is the fourth trading partner of Spain outside the EU.

    "This shows that these two countries have strong ties."

    Later on Wednesday, Turkish prime minister spoke about the state of emergency in Turkey, election campaigns abroad, peace process in Syria and the procurement of S-400 air defense system from Russia.

    Speaking to the media, Yildirim said the state of emergency does not affect normal life in Turkey.

    “No one has complained about it,” he said.

    The prime minister said the state of emergency had been declared to clear Turkey of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members.

    Turkey declared a state of emergency for the first time on July 20, 2016, following the defeated coup orchestrated by FETO.

    S-400 from Russia

    About election campaigns abroad, Yildirim said it depends on the consent of the countries.

    “If they don’t demonstrate a positive approach to the issue, we wouldn’t be insisting and cause tensions.”

    He also called for resolving the Syria issue. “Making a move to calm public opinion and then leaving it to destiny again does not contribute to serious solution,” he said, adding that the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria was a positive step to the suspected chemical attack in the country.

    On April 14, the U.S., U.K. and France launched airstrikes on the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria.

    The strikes came after the Assad regime was accused of carrying out a chemical attack in Syria's Douma, which killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.

    About criticism on Turkey’s procurement of S-400 air defense systems from Russia and its supposed noncompliance with NATO systems, Yildirim cited Greece as an example.

    “Isn’t Greece a NATO country? It has Russian missiles too… There is a double standard in this regard.”

    He said Turkey would take any measure to ensure its national security.

    “It does not bring any harm to NATO,” he added.

    Last December, Turkey announced it had concluded an agreement with Russia for the purchase of two S-400 systems by late 2019.

    *Hasan Esen contributed to this story from Ankara

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