ANKARA (Sputnik) — The European Union should give up the idea of being the continent leader and learn how to cooperate with Russia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday, adding that Russia is one of Turkey's major trading partners.
"The EU should also learn how to treat Russia. You like it or not, Russia is one of — Russia is the biggest European country. It is the biggest. I mean, you can disagree with — we also disagree with Russia on many issues — but the EU should understand that [it] is no longer the boss, OK?… But because of all of these internal issues, there is a lack of vision. This is the problem," Cavusoglu told the Al-Monitor news outlet in an interview.
The minister added that he was surprised to hear Turkey's NATO partners questioning Ankara's efforts to patch up its relations with Moscow after downing a Russian fighter jet in 2015.
"Russia is our second-largest trading partner, and we import oil and gas — more than 50 percent of the gas that we consume. Now we have the Turkish Straits project, and Russia is building the nuclear energy power station in Turkey — the first one… And, as I said, Russia is our No. 2 trading partner, and we receive almost 5 million Russian tourists [annually]," Cavusoglu added.
Besides, the Turkish foreign minister also commented on the recent Ankara-Moscow agreement on purchasing Russia's S-400 air defense systems. According to Cavusoglu, Turkey decided to choose the Russian systems simply because they were sold at better conditions that those proposed by NATO nations.
"We wanted to buy [missile systems] from our allies, NATO allies, but it didn't work. And we needed to have a technology transfer, and none of the allies were ready. So it was an urgent matter for us to buy long-range missiles, and we negotiated with different countries. And, finally, we agreed with Russia. That's it. It's very simple. We needed it, and Russia made the best proposals to Turkey," Cavusoglu said.
Russian-Turkish relations deteriorated after the downing of a Russian military plane by a Turkish fighter jet in Syria on November 24, 2015. Moscow imposed a number of restrictive measures on Turkey in response to what Putin then described as a "stab in the back." Reconciliation process between the countries began in June 2016 after Turkey has apologized for the incident.