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Erdogan tries to break out of isolation, forging relations with EU

Political

Faced with a potentially hostile US administration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to break out of isolation by forging relations with the EU, AFP reported.

Ties between Ankara and Brussels have reached their lowest level since Turkey officially began talks to join the EU in 2005, which is now frozen. And although Erdogan talks about turning the page, the list of European grievances is long.

Most recently, Brussels began compiling a list of sanctions over Turkey's gas claims in the eastern Mediterranean that sparked a naval standoff with Greece last year.

Erdogan's direct military intervention in the Syrian and Libyan conflicts has sparked discontent in Europe, while his vocal support for Azerbaijan in the six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh has upset Armenia's allies in the West.

Erdogan's threats to send millions of Syrian and other refugees that Turkey is accepting to Europe if the EU cannot provide more funding is constant blackmail.

Ankara cannot afford to escalate the conflict with both the US and Europe, especially with such a fragile economy, a European diplomat told AFP.

Turkey's strong dependence on Europe is confirmed by the numbers. According to official figures, EU member states accounted for 67.2% of foreign direct investment in Turkey between 2002 and 2018. With foreign sentiment sagging, the Turkish lira lost a fifth of its value against the dollar last year, forcing the central bank to burn most of its reserves in an attempt to prop up the currency.

Erdogan then fired his son-in-law, who served as finance minister and was responsible for Turkey's economic issues. A few days later, Erdogan first mentioned reforms and opening a new page in relations with Europe.

But while Europe wants to avoid further tensions with Turkey, Western diplomats point to a low appetite for rapprochement in parts of the EU.

According to the European diplomat, Ankara's policy causes skepticism in many European countries.

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