UPDATE 2 – Ankara fully committed to EU membership: Turkish PM

UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM YILDIRIM

By Mehmet Tosun and Mumin Altas

MADRID, Spain (AA) – The Turkish prime minister said Wednesday Ankara is still committed to getting membership in the EU, adding that a thaw in relations with Russia is not an alternative to Europe.

Binali Yildirim's remarks came at the Nueva Economia Forum held in Madrid, Spain, where he arrived Tuesday on an official visit.

He said Turkey had been waiting for membership in the EU for more than 60 years.

"We are NATO members. We are from a country that has been waiting for EU membership for more than 60 years.

"Everyone who applied after us has gained membership.

“There is an ideological approach to Turkey," Yildirim said.

Stating that the Turkey-Russia relation is essential for the security of Europe, Yildirim said the EU cannot exclude Russia.

"Eurasia region should be the center of peace," he said.

– End support for PKK

Yildirim said Spain and Turkey understood each other the best in Europe. "Why? Because both Turkey and Spain have suffered terrorism for years. We know what terror does to a country."

Criticizing some EU states for their support to the PKK terror group and Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Yildirim said: "To upset a great ally like Turkey is not a wise move in terms of the future of the EU.

"It should be noted that opening up too much space for radical movements is the biggest future threat to Europe."

The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015.

Since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

On fighting against global terrorism, the Turkish premier said the Daesh terror group is a common problem of the world that requires a joint fight.

– Foreign fighters from West

He said Turkey on its own neutralized 3,800 Daesh terrorists in anti-terror operations in Syria's Jarabulus, Azaz, and al-Bab, which helped more than160,000 displaced Syrians to return to their homes.

He urged international organizations to take more steps to eradicate terrorism, adding that countries cannot solve regional problems by just taking precautions.

"Turkey has prevented 60,000 foreign fighters from heading to Syria and Iraq. They are coming from western countries. Please think about how big a threat we are facing.

"We also apprehended 4,500 foreign fighters crossing from Syria, Iraq to Turkey, and put them in prison," Yildirim added.

Meanwhile, Spanish Tourism Minister Alvaro Nadal said: “Turkey is a gate into Asia and the Middle East for Spaniards, while Spain is also used as a gate into Latin America for Turks.”

Nadal said Turkey and Spain are two important European countries.

"Both countries have achieved great economic growth. Indeed, both countries have great touristic potentials.”

He added: "Turkey is the fourth trading partner of Spain outside the EU. This show that these two countries have strong ties."

*Hasan Esen contributed to this story from Ankara

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