British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says Turkey must take ‘brave’ steps toward the EU, regardless of what’s happening to its East-West orientation, which has been a subject of heated international debate in recent days. ‘This is a moment of truth, it is a moment for leadership, it is a moment for commitment,’ Miliband says
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. AFP photo
Read a full transcript of the interview between British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and journalist Sedat Ergin.
Despite the international debate about whether Turkey is turning its back on the West to face the East, the Turkish government should take brave steps toward the European community, according to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
“[The deadlock] gets broken by brave decisions on both sides, but also by both sides fulfilling their commitments. Europe has pledged to a fair accession process for Turkey and it must deliver. I think there is more commitment to that today than there was six months ago in Europe,” Miliband said in an interview with the daily Hürriyet at the Swissotel the day before his crucial meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara.
Miliband held talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday, to discuss issues ranging from Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union and the ongoing Cyprus talks to the contentious Iranian nuclear row.
“I am here for discussions because there are big issues that are going to be decided in the next few months on Cyprus, on the Middle East, on Iraq, where Turkey has a great role to play,” said Miliband, explaining the motives for his visit.
The British Foreign Secretary’s visit comes just a month before the EU is set to decide on the fate of the full membership negotiations with Turkey and at a moment when Turkish and Greek Cypriots are continuing intense talks to reach a comprehensive settlement.
Admitting that the membership negotiations were slower than either Turkey or the United Kingdom would like, the visiting foreign secretary said Britain “is committed to an open process with Turkey and the process has been kept open.”
The EU recently criticized Turkey for slowing down the reform process. Turkey has only been able to open 11 negotiation chapters so far and only one has been provisionally closed. In 2006, the EU suspended the opening of eight chapters due to Turkey’s refusal to implement the Ankara Protocol that would open Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot traffic.
“The Ankara Protocol is important, it is part of the [Cyprus] story and there is an important decision to be taken in December… but we should not make a crisis out of a drama,” Miliband said, without elaborating further on the issue.
Instead, he elected to deliver clear messages to the Turkish and Greek Cypriot parties for the solution of the decades-old conflict.
“This is a moment of truth, it is a moment for leadership, it is a moment for commitment, because it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to resolve the Cyprus issue on a bi-zonal, bi-communal basis,” Miliband said.
Describing both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders, Mehmet Ali Talat and Dimitris Christofias, as serious people with real commitment, Miliband reaffirmed that Europe would support them when they have to make difficult decisions in the months ahead.
“I think it is essential; it will take great decisions on both sides,” he said.
No change in vocation
When asked whether he was following the ongoing global debate over whether Turkey has shifted its destiny toward the Middle East, Miliband said he was aware of the discussions.
“There is quite a lot of blame being attached to the European Union and there is blame being placed upon Turkey as well. I think it is very, very important that Turkey is true to its own identity, which is to recognize its own roots but also recognize that its commitments to Europe are part of its vocation and that these don’t involve a rejection of other parts of the world – it involves a fulfillment of its identity,” he said.
The foreign secretary rejected the idea that Turkey has changed its calling, saying “the majority of Turks want to join the EU.”
“I think that Turkey is clearly serious about its vocation to join Europe.”
Erdoğan, Miliband discuss Iranian issue
Iran’s controversial nuclear program and its refusal to fully cooperate with the United Nations were among the top issues Miliband and Erdoğan discussed Thursday. In an interview with British daily The Guardian, Erdoğan described Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “friend” and Western countries’ concerns over Tehran’s ambition to produce nuclear weapons as “gossip.”
“My own view is that the Iranian leadership has lost the confidence of the international community for very clear reasons. It had secret nuclear programs that were not declared as they should,” Miliband said. Underlining that he had no objection to a civilian nuclear program as long as Iran fulfills its responsibility to ensure there is no nuclear-weapons proliferation, Miliband said: “Turkey would know better than many of the dangers of an Iranian nuclear-weapons program. You are neighbors with Iran. You would not want Iran to be a nuclear-armed state.”
At Thursday’s meeting between Erdoğan and Miliband, the discussion focused on ways in which Turkey and Britain could work together in the pursuit of a shared goal to ensure that there are no nuclear weapons in Iran.
Support for Kurdish, Armenian moves
Miliband did not shy away from praising the government’s recent efforts to address the Kurdish issue and reconcile with Armenia.
“We are strongly supportive of [the Kurdish move]. One of the big issues that I have discussed for the last two years here is Kurdish rights, equal rights for all citizens of Turkey and I think it is very much to the credit of the government that they made this opening,” he said.
Rejecting suggestions that the process has come to a standstill, Miliband said: “Well, these things go, stop and stand but I don’t think they are going to reverse.”
Partner of the 21st century
When asked about Turkey’s role in the 21st century, Miliband summarized it with just a sentence: “Like many countries, [Turkey’s role] is to be a good partner.”
“I call [this role] responsible sovereignty. Which means being responsible to your own citizens but also responsible for the decisions and implications beyond your borders. It is what I want Britain to be, a good global citizen… and that is not a bad test for any country, economically, socially, environmentally. We all have to be good global citizens.”