February 13, 2009
Turkish foreign minister warns against confronting Russia
Riga – Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan advised the United States, NATO and European Union not to adopt a confrontational attitude in their dealings with Russia on Thursday. Speaking after talks with his Latvian counterpart, Maris Riekstins, in Riga, Babacan said Turkey and Russia enjoyed “normal, friendly relations” and noted that Russia is Turkey’s largest trading partner.
“The key term is co-operation. A strategy of confrontation with Russia is not going to give positive results and risks producing lose-lose outcomes,” he warned when about Russian plans to station Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad Baltic enclave in response to US plans for a “missile shield” in central and eastern Europe.
Riekstins said placing Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad “cannot be evaluated in a positive way because these missiles are of an offensive, not defensive nature,” but voiced hope that the new US administration would be able to make a fresh start in negotiations with Moscow.
Though classed as short-range missiles, Iskanders would be capable of striking Latvian territory.
Riekstins also said Latvia, which joined the European Union in 2004, fully supported Turkey’s attempts to gain entry to the 27- member bloc.
“We see this proceeding not as fast as Turkey or ourselves would desire,” Riekstins said, adding that any EU applicant that satisfied all the necessary criteria should have the right to join.
Babacan said he expected that Turkey would have met all membership criteria by 2012 and could join the EU a year later.
“By the end of 2013 I would say we will be ready,” Babacan said, though he admitted the EU would need to feel “more self-confidence” for enlargement to take place.