Erdoğan says Brexit is start of new era, warns of rising xenophobia

Published 26.06.2016 23:18

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Britain's planned departure from the European Union signaled a turning point in European history and warned the bloc could face further disintegration.

"I see this decision by the people of Britain as the beginning of a new era for Britain and the EU," Erdoğan said during a fast-breaking dinner late on Friday in his first comments on the shock referendum result. "Like the entire world, we expected a 'yes' [to remain] result in the referendum but it turned out like this," he said.

Voters in Britain decided Thursday to leave the EU, raising questions over the future of the bloc. Erdoğan said the problem today "is not Turkey but the EU itself." He warned that new withdrawals from the EU would be "inevitable" unless it revised its policies to address migration, rising racism and Islamophobia in Europe.

"Turkey will naturally take its place within the union if the EU sincerely questions itself and does what's required swiftly," he said. "If that does not happen and the EU proceeds on its path by deepening its inconsistency, it will be inevitable for [the EU] to face new breakups shortly."

On Friday, he blasted the EU's attitude towards Turkey: "The treatment of Turkey now is Islamophobic. That's why they are delaying taking us in."

Erdoğan also criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said Turkish membership was not "remotely on the cards" during the referendum campaign and may not occur until the year 3000. "What did he say? He said 'Turkey cannot join before 3000'," Erdogan said. "What happened now? Look, you could not stand for even three days" after the vote, he said, referring to Cameron's announcement that he would resign by October.

Turkish authorities have long been warning of rising xenophobia in Europe, saying Europe's politicians are failing to combat rising xenophobia and anti-immigrant views.

"The fragmentation of the EU has started. Britain was the first to abandon ship," Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli wrote on Twitter.

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said the British campaign had been marred by Islamophobia and anti-Turkish sentiment fueled by mainstream politicians.

"This has been a worrying process ... in which mainstream politicians relied on the far right's rhetoric too much," Çelik told a news conference.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the EU needed to reflect carefully on the British vote and to embrace more inclusive policies. His foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusoğlu, said the EU's enlargement and integration policies had been a failure.

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