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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Analysis: Turkey's EU cliffhanger

By Mark Mardell
BBC Europe Editor

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
The UK presidency threw its full weight behind the Turkish bid
The symbolic handshake between the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, and his UK counterpart Jack Straw finally took place after 30 hours of tough, awkward negotiations.

The Turks had been waiting more than 40 years for this moment, although it was soured a little by the last-minute drama.

Eventually Austria dropped its demand that there should be the option of something less than full membership for Turkey.

In return they get a beefed-up section referring to the important consideration of the European Union's capacity to absorb Turkey - further toughening up what are already the toughest demands placed on any state applying to join the EU.

Austrian resistance

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's PM Erdogan insists on full membership

Still it is a much-needed triumph for the British presidency, and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was worth 30 hours of negotiations and three hours' sleep. "A historic day," he said.

There is no doubt Austria was isolated, with even Greece and Cyprus insisting talks should at least begin.

One diplomat described the Austrian foreign minister as like a boxer in a corner, stoically taking punches from all comers. But just one country could have stopped the negotiations dead in their tracks.

At the same time, in the Turkish capital Ankara, there was a 60,000-strong demonstration against the EU's attitude.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently said it was time for the EU to show either the political maturity to become a global power or to decide that it wants to remain a Christian club.

Either way, he said, Turkey would continue with democracy and reform.

These talks have been full of unexpected worries and hitches - just a foretaste, perhaps, of the 10 years of negotiating ahead.

See Turkey's Foreign Minister on his way to Europe

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