Italian minister backs Gates on Turkey moving 'eastwards'
Italy's foreign minister indicated Thursday he agreed with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that the European Union's refusal to embrace Turkey had pushed Ankara "eastwards."
"I think that we Europeans have made a mistake in pushing Turkey eastwards instead of bringing them towards us," Franco Frattini told the Frankfurter Allgemeine German daily in an interview.
"If we give Turkey the impression that we don't want them as a member of the European Union family then they will have a look around for other perspectives," for example regional powers like Iran and Syria, he said.
"This is not in Europe's interests ... We still have some time. But we have to speed up the membership process" of Turkey joining the 27-nation bloc.
Gates's comments in London on Wednesday along the same lines reflected growing dismay in Washington over Ankara no longer reliably backing US diplomacy and Turkey's worsening relations with Israel.
"If there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is my view in no small part because it was pushed and pushed by some in Europe, refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought," Gates told reporters.
Ankara is frustrated at the glacial pace of EU membership talks, with notably France and Germany cool on the mainly Muslim country of 80 million people joining the bloc.
Turkey meanwhile is irritated by Washington's reticent response to a deal with Tehran brokered by Turkey and Brazil for a nuclear fuel swap.
Turkey and Brazil, another country becoming more assertive on the international stage, both voted in the UN Security Council against imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran on Wednesday.
Ties between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated in recent months and took a sharp turn for the worse last week after Israeli commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists on an aid ship trying to break a blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Turkey -- once Israel's main regional ally -- has now recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and scrapped joint military drills, saying economic and defence ties would be reduced to a "minimum level".
Frattini said that he and German counterpart Guido Westerwelle wanted to "talk about what we are going to do about Turkey" at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.
© 2010 AFP