Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to change his stance towards Europe after a year of strained relations, confessing it in front of journalists aboard a plane from Chad to Tunisia on Thursday.
"I always say this: We are obliged to lessen the number of foes and increase the number of friends. We have no problems with Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. To the contrary, those who are in the governments of these countries are my old friends," Erdogan stated.
Out of all the EU members, Turkey has the most strained relations with Austria and Germany: the first one has repeatedly urged the country to end its accession bid, while the other has been insisting on the review of the bloc's economic policies due to arrests of human rights activists in Turkey.
However, Erdogan has described Germany's, Netherlands' and Belgium's governments as "old friends," noting that their last contacts were "quite good," especially regarding the Jerusalem issue.
"We had problems, but our latest meetings have gone very well. I asked for their support on Jerusalem; we are all on the same page. I have called [German President Frank Walter] Steinmeier to thank him. [Dutch Prime Minister Mark] Rutte sent some signals to improve ties with us. These are satisfactory. We, of course, hope to have good ties with the EU and EU countries," Erdogan emphasized.
"Well, they did me wrong. Otherwise, I used to have good meetings with Rutte; Belgium in the same way. No need to mention Germany. My contacts with both Steinmeier and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel have always been very good," he said.
The Turkey-EU ties unravelled in November 2016, when the European Parliament suspended Turkish accession talks, following a constitutional referendum greatly expanding Erdogan's powers in April 2017, which prompted the EU to vote to reopen the monitoring process against Turkey.
Erdogan's statements look especially controversial in the light of his October's remarks, claiming that Turkey didn't need EU membership anymore.