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25 Jan, 2023 10:04

Turkish opposition backs exit from NATO – media

Turks increasingly perceive the US as a threat and Russia as a friend, vice-chair of Vatan Party Ethem Sancak argues
Turkish opposition backs exit from NATO – media

Türkiye could leave NATO within months, a politician there has claimed, citing “provocations” by the US-led military bloc against his nation. Ethem Sancak is a Turkish businessman of Arab descent who is active in politics and who local media describe as close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He was commenting on an anti-NATO campaign in Türkiye that the Vatan (Patriotic) Party, where he holds the position of vice chairman for foreign relations, has organized.

“NATO forces us to take these actions with their provocations,” he stated, predicting that his party’s goal of getting Türkiye to leave the alliance may come to fruition “in five-to-six months.”

Speaking to the news website enbursa.com on Tuesday, Sancak noted that being part of the bloc puts Türkiye on a collision course with fellow member and longtime rival Greece, and also at risk of being pulled “into a whirlpool in the Middle East.” The recent Koran-burning stunts in some European nations make leaving NATO “a necessity,” he argued.

The Danish-Swedish right-wing politician and activist Rasmus Paludan staged a protest last weekend in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which involved the burning of the holy book of Islam. The incident sparked outrage in the Muslim world, while the Turkish president said Stockholm’s choice to permit the action meant that Ankara would not support Sweden’s request to join NATO.

Sancak said that Turks were increasingly perceiving the US as a nation that pursues “the most hostile and destructive policies.” At the same time they “feel great sympathy towards Russia.”

A survey conducted by the Turkish pollster Gezici at the end of last year showed that 72.8% of Turks wanted their nation to have good relations with Russia. Less than a quarter said they believed Moscow to be hostile towards Türkiye.

Omer Celik, the spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), rejected the idea, which he called “mind-blowing.” Türkiye is among NATO's oldest members, and people calling for its exit are “talking about destroying” the bloc, he told journalists on Wednesday.

The Vatan Party believes that Türkiye would be better off if it dropped its attempts to become a member of the EU and forged good relations with China and Russia instead. It also advocates overcoming differences with Iran and Syria, nations that the US is targeting with crippling sanctions and other forms of pressure.

Sancak joined the Vatan Party last year, though his involvement in politics goes back decades to his days as a university student and activist. His business interests include pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well as media, with the TV channel 360 and the daily newspaper Star among his best-known acquisitions.