17 April 2014, Thursday
Today's Zaman

PM Erdoğan supports Macedonia's EU, NATO bid

29 September 2011, Thursday /TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Macedonia will enter the European Union soon and that Turkey supports its integration into NATO during a trip to the country this week.

Answering questions in Skopje on Thursday at a joint press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Erdoğan said the country is likely to enter the EU before Turkey since its accession process is proceeding quickly.

Turkey's prime minister said he sees Macedonia as an important actor for maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkans. Erdoğan said Turkey hoped Macedonia would become a NATO member as soon as possible.

Erdoğan was critical of the Greek government's attitude, which has been blocking the country's NATO membership over a name dispute. Greece does not allow Macedonia to be called the Republic of Macedonia because of its own region of Macedonia. Greece claims that Macedonia, if it keeps the name, might territorially claim the Greek northern province of Macedonia.

“Turkey has always supported Macedonia, particularly its bid to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions, since it gained its independence, and will continue to do so,” Erdoğan told a press conference before he left Ankara for Macedonia.

Turkey, a NATO member which became one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name, is a staunch supporter of Skopje becoming a member of NATO. Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia with little bloodshed in 1991.

Erdoğan, who is visiting Macedonia from Sept. 29-30 as a guest of PM Gruevski, said Turkey and Macedonia shared a common history and culture for almost six centuries. The prime minister will meet with ethnic Turks living in Macedonia and listen to their expectations and demands.

“Besides our political relations, I will have the opportunity to debate economic, commercial, cultural, educational, defense and security issues during my visit, and seek ways to boost our relations and cooperation,” he said.

Erdoğan is going to visit several cities in Macedonia as his visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of Macedonia's independence and the 10th anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the peace deal signed by the government of the Republic of Macedonia and ethnic Albanian representatives on Aug. 13, 2001. The agreement ended an armed conflict between the National Liberation Army and the Macedonian security forces, and set the groundwork for improving the rights of ethnic Albanians.

The agreement also included provisions for altering the official languages of the country, with any language spoken by over 20 percent of the population becoming co-official with the Macedonian language on a municipal level. Currently, only Albanian with an approximate 25 percent of the population fulfils this criterion.

Upon arrival to Macedonia, Erdoğan visited Skopje Alexander the Great Airport, constructed by the Turkish firm TAV Construction, together with his Macedonian counterpart. Erdoğan is accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Education Minister Ömer Dinçer.

Meanwhile, İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş is in Skopje, a sister city of İstanbul, to meet with his counterpart, Trifun Kostovski. Erdoğan and Topbaş will attend a graduation ceremony at the International Balkan University on Friday.

DIPLOMACY  Other Titles
US warns against damage to ties over recurring media claims
KRG's Barzani visits Ankara for talks with Erdoğan
Villagers file suit against ministry over stray bullets from Syria
Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations
Turkey says deeply concerned over events in Ukraine
Chinese deputy foreign minister in Ankara for inter-delegation meeting
‘Turkey will not remain silent over 'genocide resolution' if adopted’
Russia welcomes Turkey's assurances on observance of Montreux terms
Poland: NATO should send troops to east Europe, ignore Russia's objections
US looks to Turkey to uphold checks and balances
Dubai may be a hub for Turkey and Iran's illicit transactions
US House Speaker meets senior Turkish officials in Ankara
EU Minister Çavuşoğlu says Füle's comments on Turkey ‘balanced'
US Ambassador Ricciardone has talks with AK Party officials
Turkey's honorary consuls meet to discuss foreign policy
Iran to build cultural center in the heart of İstanbul
Loğoğlu: No Turkish institution in US works against Turkey
Erdoğan will further polarize Turkey as presidential election approaches
European Union concerned about rule of law in Turkey
Turkey seeks to restore dialogue with Serbia with FM's visit
Turkish Rights groups slam Egypt over execution ruling
Turkey to boost relations with Afghanistan, backing stability in post-election era
Erdoğan's political ambitions clash with Turkey's long-term interests
Critics say Turkey no longer state with rule of law with MİT bill
Turkey might export domestic political tension to diaspora