British deputy PM says Turkey valuable example for Mideast
Addressing the latest democratic movements in the Arab Middle East, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Turkey is “a valuable example for other societies.”
Delivering a speech in Brussels on Wednesday titled “Building Open Societies: Transforming Europe’s Partnership with North Africa,” Clegg appraised the “Turkish way” and strongly supported the idea that Turkey could be a model for emergent democracies of the Arab world. It is being hotly debated both in the West and in the Arab world whether Turkey could be a source of inspiration for Muslim societies that want to end decades of dictatorships and live in a democratic system.
Clegg, whose country has consistently supported Turkey’s aspirations for EU membership, said recent events had highlighted Turkey’s importance. “As a Muslim majority country, a NATO member and a country firmly committed to the path to EU membership, and a state with a vibrant multi-party democracy, it provides a valuable example for other societies,” said Clegg.
The number two British statesman said Turkey’s warm relations with the region could offer opportunities in terms of openness and respect for human rights that the EU had strongly supported. Clegg thanked Turkey for its help in Libya, stressing that Ankara had also evacuated many non-Turkish citizens in the embattled Arab nation. “Another tangible recent example of the help Turkey can offer is their readiness to represent the UK’s interests in Libya when our embassy was forced to suspend its operations, and I wish to warmly thank Turkey for that assistance. Turkey has not just been helping us. In total Turkey has evacuated over 3,300 foreigners from at least 52 different countries, many of them European,” said the British deputy prime minister.
Clegg also underlined that Turkey was now sending significant aid to relieve the growing humanitarian crisis in Libya. His speech in Brussels comes at a critical time as Turkish membership negotiations with the EU are on the brink of collapse, mainly due to problems stemming from Cyprus. Eighteen chapters out of 35 are already suspended because of Greek Cypriot and French opposition.
In his speech Clegg strongly stressed the need to have a brand new European policy vis-à-vis the Middle East while criticizing the decades-old EU policy as “shortsighted.”