Baku. 8 October. REPORT.AZ/ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking to journalists accompanying him during his trip to Japan on Wednesday, said the refugee influx caused by the continuing Syrian crisis had once again highlighted Turkey's crucial importance to Europe and that EU leaders had been reminded of this fact. Erdoğan, who visited Strasbourg and Brussels and met with top EU leaders and Belgian officials during the first half of the tour, said he was very pleased with the visits, Report informs referring to Turkish media.
"We met with our compatriots in Strasbourg and were very glad to attend the anti-terrorism meeting", he said.
He expressed his satisfaction with the success of the visit to Belgium, where he met with King Philippe, which he noted was the first state visit to the country since 1838 during the Ottoman era. Erdoğan received the highest state medal from the Belgian king, who also was presented with a Turkish state medal. The refugee crisis topped the agenda during meetings with European Parliament President Martin Schultz, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
President Erdoğan said, Russian infringements of Turkey's airspace in the past few days were incompatible with the close links the two countries have and added that the Russian administration was close to losing Turkey as a friend.
He noted that the NATO Council had held an emergency session and released a tough statement condemning Russian actions. "It said violating Turkish airspace meant violating NATO airspace. I must admit that Russian statements about these violations cannot be deemed as serious. Russia perpetrating such acts with a neighboring country with which it has a high-level cooperation council is unbecoming."
He said he had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin late last month and also spoke to him after Russia began its air strikes in Syria. "Violations of our airspace after all that do not correspond to serious statesmanship. We are definitely upset. It should not have happened."
When asked if he would be talking to Putin to prevent the violations from deteriorating into clashes, Erdoğan said: "I don't believe Russia would do such a thing. NATO's emergency meeting showed how seriously they took the matter." He said the violations occurred after he talked with Putin, and he did not believe it meaningful to call Putin again under such circumstances.
When asked about the close commercial ties between the two countries, Erdoğan argued that trade ties were a matter that both sides needed to be sensitive about. "If Russia doesn't build the Mersin Akkuyu Nuclear Plant, someone else will. They have already invested $3 billion there. So, it is Russia that needs to be careful there. On the issue of our natural gas imports, we are their top natural gas customer. Losing Turkey will be a major loss for Russia. If necessary, Turkey can get the gas from elsewhere. So, Russia needs to assess these issues carefully. There is a high-level cooperation council mechanism between the two countries. The council's end would be wrong for Russia too."
He said Turkey had no desire to lose what it had built with Russia over the years, said Erdoğan, adding: "That is why we are upset about Russia taking steps to jeopardize them. We cannot act emotionally."