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Philippines President Supports Turkey Joining ASEAN

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Rodrigo Duterte, whose nation chairs 10-country southeast Asian bloc, says 'Why not?' to Turkish membership

The Philippines is ready to “sponsor” Turkey’s membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday.

Duterte said Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat had lobbied him at a recent summit in China to join the 10-nation southeast Asian bloc, local media reported.

The Philippines currently chairs the organization.

“They want to join ASEAN,” he told a news conference in Davao City, according to news portal Rappler.

“And since I am now the chair, the Philippines, they wanted me to sponsor that entry and I said ‘Yes, why not?’”

He said Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi had questioned whether Turkey and Mongolia could join ASEAN due to their geographical distance.

“Turkey, it seems to be ambivalent [as] to whether to be a bridge to Europe and Asia or being an Asian,” Duterte said.

“There is nothing definite there. There has always been an ambivalent view. Sometimes they say that they are part of Asia, sometimes they say that they are the bridge of Asia to Europe.”

Although location in southeast Asia is one of the criteria to join ASEAN, Turkey has long-standing ties to the bloc.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkey decided to establish ties in 1999 and signed a cooperation treaty in 2010.

Turkish foreign ministers have participated as guests at ASEAN meetings, the last being Mevlut Cavusoglu in August 2015.

A year earlier, Turkey’s trade with ASEAN countries passed $8.5 billion -- a four-fold increase over 10 years.

Turkey’s bid to join the EU has run into several hurdles in recent months, with Ankara riling at the EU’s perceived lack of support in the wake of last July’s coup attempt and arguments over Turkish politicians campaigning on European soil ahead of April’s referendum.

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