Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım warned the EU on Saturday (22 October) not to forget that Turkey has alternatives to the bloc, whose ties with Ankara have become increasingly strained.
He did not say what the alternatives could be but closer relations between Russia and Ankara have caused concern in the West.
“Turkey always has alternatives. Europe should not forget: too much coyness can make love fed up,” he said during a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) conference.
Turkey’s bid to join the union dates back to the 1960s, although formal talks began in 2005. Only 16 chapters of the 35 chapter accession process have been opened.
Turkey’s relationship with the EU has come under strain since the 15 July failed putsch and Brussels’ failure to deliver visa-liberalisation in time as part of the March deal to solve the refugee crisis in Europe.
Turkey would have to back out of its agreement with the European Union to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU does not deliver visa-free travel for Turks, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
Ankara has also attacked Brussels for not showing more support after the coup bid as EU officials criticised Turkey’s crackdown against plotters and supporters.
Tens of thousands of those working in the judiciary, military, police and education sector have been suspended, sacked or detained over links to the putschists which has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies by its wide scope.
Turkey and the European Union on Friday (9 September) agreed to douse tensions that had darkened Ankara’s prospects for joining the bloc in the wake of the failed 15 July coup.
Over 35.000 suspects arrested
Turkey has arrested more than 35,000 people over alleged links to the group run by the US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the failed July coup, local media reported Sunday.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the suspects had been placed under arrest since the attempted putsch that fell apart within hours, quoted by NTV broadcaster.
Another 3,907 suspects were still being sought while nearly 26,000 people had been released into “judicial control”, he said.
Some 82,000 individuals had been investigated in total since the coup bid, he told the audience on Saturday at a ruling Justice and Development Party conference in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey.
Tens of thousands of people have been suspended, sacked or detained in the military, judiciary, police, education sector and media in connection with the July 15 attempted putsch blamed on Gülen and his Hizmet (Service) movement.
The unprecedented purge has come under heavy criticism from Turkey’s Western allies, including the European Union. Brussels has urged Ankara to act within the rule of law, which Turkey insists it is.
Ankara accuses Gülen of masterminding the coup, during which a rogue military faction tried to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Gülen – who has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999 in Pennsylvania – strongly denies the charges.