Financial Times

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Turkey still committed to EU, says Gul

(By Tony Barber and Roula Khalaf ) 

Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s president, has emphasised his country’s long-term commitment to joining the European Union by saying Ankara would make sure it met all standards required for membership, even though large parts of its entry negotiations are frozen.

“We see certain political issues being included in the process, which have the effect of slowing down and, to a certain extent, hijacking these negotiations. We are not happy about this,” Mr Gul told the Financial Times on Monday.

Referring to the 35 negotiating chapters, or policy areas, a candidate country must complete to qualify for EU membership, he added: “This situation is not going to change our determination to complete the negotiations. We will continue to do everything necessary to fulfil the requirements of the chapters. So when it is time to open and close the chapters, the opening and closing will only be ceremonial.”

Mr Gul was speaking a day before the European Commission releases its annual report on Turkey’s progress towards accession, which is expected to welcome recent constitutional reforms but urge greater effort on minority rights and press freedom.

Turkey started its EU accession talks in 2005 but has opened only 13 chapters and closed only one, that on science. Talks on many other chapters are blocked either by the EU as a whole, by the Greek Cypriot-led government of Cyprus, which joined the bloc in 2004, or by France.

Mr Gul avoided direct criticism of France but complained that certain, unnamed, “short-sighted” EU countries had hidden behind the Greek Cypriots to pursue their own objective of delaying Turkey’s membership bid.

He observed that European leaders had long ago identified energy as an important subject in EU-Turkish relations, but opening the energy chapter had proved impossible because of Greek Cypriot opposition. The Greek Cypriots are at odds with Turkey over their plans for energy exploration in the Mediterranean, as well as over Turkey’s 36-year military presence in northern Cyprus.

Mr Gul said the international order was shifting towards the east and made clear he hoped Turkey’s economic transformation would take it into the ranks of emerging Bric countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. “It wouldn’t be surprising if we start talking about Bric plus T,” he said.

Gul did not mean Ankara was any less enthusiastic about joining the EU. Turkey, he said, still saw full membership as a “strategic vision” and wanted to be part of the principles espoused by Europe.

 He also indicated Turkey was still actively trying to help resolve Iran’s nuclear dispute with the west. It was important for the US to have “a candid dialogue” with Tehran and for Iran to become more “transparent” in its dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“We must also take into consideration the threat perception on the part of Iran,” he said. “A nuclear weapon is not going to be in their interest. It will create a burden.”

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