ISTANBUL (AFP) – Charges that Turkey is turning away from the West are “dirty propaganda,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
Speaking at a Turkish-Arab forum, Erdogan pointed to French investments in Syria and other Arab countries, adding: “But when it comes to Turkey investing in Arab countries or vice versa, a dirty propaganda is trying to impede this process.”
“Those who say that Turkey has broken away from the West are the intermediaries of an ill-intentioned propaganda,” he said.
“We are open to all parts of the world. We are not open to one and closed to another,” he insisted.
Many in Turkey and the West are concerned that NATO’s sole mainly Muslim member is sliding away, pointing at a severe crisis with Israel over its bloody raid on aid ships last week and Turkey’s “no” vote on fresh sanctions against Iran Wednesday.
Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government has sought a stronger Turkish role in the Middle East, notably improving ties with Muslim countries, among them former foes Syria and Iran.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday the European Union’s refusal to offer Turkey a swift accession process has partly caused Ankara’s foreign policy shift and the deterioration in its relations with Israel.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he agreed with Gates, urging the EU to speed up Turkey’s accession talks, in remarks to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine daily.