ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his country has not yet given up on its ambition to join the European Union but has "many other alternatives" if the stalled process goes nowhere.
"We have not yet closed the European Union book right now," Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul. "But nobody should forget that Turkey always has many other alternatives."
Last week the European Parliament backed a freeze in Turkey’s membership talks, angering Erdogan who threatened to retaliate by rupturing a migrant deal curbing the flow of refugees to Europe.
Turkey agreed to step up maritime and land border controls in exchange for incentives on its long-stalled membership bid, including visa-free travel for its citizens and an acceleration of the accession talks.
The deal has substantially helped reduce the wave of migrants since it was signed in March.
Erdogan said the non-binding vote at the European Parliament "upset" Turkey, adding it did not currently have "positive" feelings on the accession talks.
If the EU path is blocked, Erdogan said, "we’ll continue our road by evaluating one of those alternatives," without naming them.
"I don’t find it right to say it here but we are of course continuing our talks with those alternatives."
Earlier this month, Erdogan again floated the idea of joining Russia and China in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).
The SCO is a loose security and economic bloc. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also members.
But Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised interview last week that the SCO was not an alternative to Ankara’s EU accession talks. — AFP