Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, urged Western countries to stand more firmly against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a call Merkel responded to with a promise for better cooperation with Turkey, Todays Zaman reported
"There should not be a terrorist organization backed by the West," Erdogan said at a joint news conference. He lamented that many Western countries do not extradite people wanted in Turkey on terrorism charges despite extradition agreements they have with Turkey even though his government frequently approves the extradition of criminals to these countries, including Germany and France, under the same agreements. "We expect the extradition of such criminals," he said.
However, he said he has received assurances from Merkel that Germany will increase its support for Turkey's efforts to combat the PKK, adding that the relevant ministries of the two countries have been given instructions to work on joint steps. Merkel, for her part, said Germany is ready to support Turkey in its anti-terrorism efforts.
Erdogan has repeatedly complained about European reluctance to better cooperate with Turkey in its efforts to combat the PKK. Before his visit to Germany, Erdogan said on Tuesday that Germany is of key importance to PKK activities in Europe, noting that several PKK offshoots operate in Germany under different names and raise funds for the terrorist group.
Erdogan's visit to Germany came amid a stalemate in Turkey's EU membership process.
Erdogan thanked Merkel for her support in the opening of accession talks with Turkey during her country's term as EU president and appeared to blame France, rather than Germany, for the stalemate in the talks.
"Germany, under both Christian Democrat and Social Democrat governments, has always supported Turkey," he said, complaining, however, that the French administration after former President Jacques Chirac took up "a very negative attitude" towards Turkey.
Erdogan also complained about EU policy on the Cyprus problem and said Merkel had told him in the past she also believed it had been a mistake to admit a divided Cyprus. "This was a serious mistake and the mistake continues with increasing effects," Erdogan added.
Asked about Erdogan's comments on Merkel's views, a German government source said the chancellor had been referring to the EU's general principle that it should only take in members which have resolved all territorial conflicts with their neighbours.
The Greek Cypriot government, recognized by the EU as representative of the entire island, is currently blocking further progress in Ankara's membership process. Turkey, which does not recognize Greek Cyprus, suspended dialogue with the EU presidency after the rotating post was taken over by the Greek Cypriots in July.
"The EU talks of a state called Cyprus. There is no country called Cyprus. There is the Greek Cypriot administration and there is Turkish Cyprus. There is a green line that divides them. But EU members do not see that green line," said Erdogan.
During his speech on Tuesday, Erdogan said Turkey has not dropped its goal of becoming a member of the European Union despite the current stalemate in the accession process. However, he suggested a deadline for Turkish readiness to pursue EU membership, saying the 17-nation bloc will lose Turkey if it is still keeping Ankara out in 2023.
"We wholeheartedly believe that Turkey and the EU share a common future," Erdoğan said, noting that Turkey would help the EU increase its influence in the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia and play a more central role in global affairs.
"We continue to prepare ourselves to become a full member in the EU of the future. I believe that the EU will become stronger when Turkey joins as a full member," said Erdogan.
His remarks came as a response to mounting concerns over lack of enthusiasm on the part of his government to pursue the membership goal. These concerns grew further when the prime minister failed to make any mention of EU membership in a major speech outlining his party's political vision for 2023, the year which marks the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
Responding to a question after his speech regarding whether Turkey would be an EU member by 2023, Erdoğan answered: "They probably won't keep us waiting that long. But if they do, then the EU will lose out, and at the very least they will lose Turkey." Turkey, which has aspired to be a part of Europe since the 1960s, has been a candidate since 1999 and has been negotiating with the union for membership since 2005. However, the talks have virtually ground to a halt in recent years due to opposition from some EU members and the failure to find a solution to the dispute over the divided island of Cyprus.