By Robert Harneis –TDO-(FRANCE) Turkey plans to sign a customs agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said 18 August at the 85th Izmir International Fair.

The statement came two days after Chancellor Angela Merkel's remarks that the EU customs union deal with Turkey is not going to be modernized, which Turkish EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik described unfortunate.

Speaking at the Izmir Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Turkey is still considering its affiliation with the European Customs Union but wants to become a part of Eurasian Customs Union, as well. Emphasizing that Merkel cannot make decisions by herself on updating the customs deal, the minister pointed to EU officials' opinions indicating that modernization is lucrative both for Turkey and the EU.

‘We have a proposal for Turkey to begin negotiations with the Eurasian Economic Union on signing a customs agreement. Without violating a corresponding agreement with the EU, Turkey wants to establish another cooperation with the EAEU,’ Zeybekci said. ‘There are many sectors for cooperation - petrochemicals, agriculture and others - that will show us new potential. The agreement on free trade between Russia and Turkey will lead to a new level of partnership. This agreement will include investments,’ he added.

Noting that the recent 30% growth in trade between Russia and Turkey in 2017 was ‘just the beginning,’ he said that the new free trade agreement would lead to a ‘new level of partnership.’

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has been particularly anxious for Turkey to join the association for some time.

This latest move is an added indication that the Turkish government is giving the highest priority to Turkish economic interests over longstanding diplomatic positions and negotiations with the EU.

Since Armenia is a member of the EEU a free trade area involving Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey would presumably mean the end the economic blockade Azerbaijan and Turkey have imposed on Armenia because of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.  Iranian President Rouhani’s recent statement of support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, for Nagorno Karabakh’s reintegration into Azerbaijan, was presumably intended to make this fact more palatable to people in Azerbaijan.

Speaking at the same conference Russian Energy Minister Alexandre Novak said that Russia and Turkey had agreed to hold a joint economy meeting in Tatarstan's capital of Kazan with Zeybekci on Oct. 22, and that they continue talks on trade, investment, industry and interregional cooperation. 

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