Kurds hold banners reading ‘Truth and Justice’ above the photos of Sakine Cansiz, a founder of the PKK, Fidan Dogan, and Leylay Soylemez, protesting during the visit of the Turkish president in Paris on Friday. The three women were killed in Paris five years ago. Photo: Thibault Camus/AP
PARIS (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he is “seriously tired” of waiting for the European Union to decide if it wants his country as a member.
Erdogan, who was in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron as part of efforts to improve his government’s strained relationship with Europe, said Turkey won’t wait forever.
“Unfortunately, we did the first steps in 1963, and it’s now been 54 years that Turkey has been waiting in the antechamber of the EU,” Erdogan said during a joint news conference with Macron. “We have been seriously tired, my nation, too.”
Adding that frustration might tempt Turkey to turn its back to Europe, Erdogan said, “One cannot permanently implore and wait to be finally included.”
Ties between Turkey and Europe deteriorated last year after authorities in several countries prevented Turkish government ministers from holding political rallies to court expatriates’ votes in a referendum to expand the president’s powers.
Erdogan unleashed a series of insults at NATO allies, accusing European officials of racism, harboring terrorists and behaving like Nazis.
Macron acknowledged that Turkey’s EU accession talks remained stalled. He said the relationship between Europe and Turkey needed to be rethought with the goal of creating a partnership that would ensure Turkey’s “future will be built looking toward Europe and with Europe.”
The two leaders also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against terror and the war in Syria. France and Turkey also signed defense, banking and commercial deals, including the planned sale of 25 Airbus A330s to Turkish Airlines.
The trip was Erdogan’s first to France since his government strongly cracked down on suspected opponents following a failed coup in July 2016. About 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 others removed from public sector jobs in Turkey.
Protests over deteriorating press freedom and human rights greeted the Turkish president upon his arrival.
About 30 activists from watchdog group Reporters without Borders held images of jailed journalists outside the Turkish Embassy. A dozen demonstrators, mainly ethnic Kurds, later tried to reach the presidential Elysee palace, but police pushed them back onto a side street.
The French Communist Party and several left-wing parties have criticized Erdogan’s visit to France, which came the day before the fifth anniversary of the slayings in Paris of three Kurdish women activists.
“The French judicial system had pointed out Turkish secret services’ involvement in this crime,” the Communist Party said in a statement.
Macron said he raised the issues of media freedom and fundamental rights with Erdogan. He said he gave Erdogan a list of journalists and non-governmental organization workers he thinks were wrongly targeted during the post-coup crackdown.
“We will find concrete and real solutions that will allow the few cases to be settled, and to settle what has sometimes been a misunderstanding, a harmful misunderstanding,” Macron said.
Erdogan responded that some “columnists and opinion leaders are the gardeners of terrorism.”
While Erdogan traveled to Paris, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to meet with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday.