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Sunday, December 14, 1997 Published at 19:13 GMT


Turkey rejects EU invitation
image: [ Mesut Yilmaz dismissed the invitation as unimportant ]
Mesut Yilmaz dismissed the invitation as unimportant

Chris Morris reports from Ankara
Turkey has rejected an invitation from the European Union to take part in a new body involving countries which want to join the organisation.

Following a cabinet meeting, the Turkish prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, dismissed the invitation as unimportant and said Turkey would cut off political dialogue with the EU.

Mr Yilmaz also said Turkey would go ahead with plans to integrate Turkish-held northern Cyprus if the EU started membership talks with the Greek-Cypriot south of the island.

[ image:  ]
Despite the invitation, made on Saturday, leaders at the Luxembourg summit made it clear Turkey was not included in the EU enlargement process at this stage.

The EU wanted Turkey to improve its human rights record, protect the rights of its Kurdish minority and move to solve long-standing territorial disputes with Greece, including the future of the divided island of Cyprus.

Eleven countries were invited to join the organisation, six in the first wave - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus.

Another five eastern European countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania - will be invited to join future talks and will be monitored as they carry out reforms to improve their eligibility.

Ankara, which has been seeking EU membership since the early 1960s, had warned that it would turn away from Europe if it was not treated in the same way as other eastern European countries.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to Turkey on Saturday to accept the summit's invitation to join the conference and said there was strong support "all round the table" that Turkey would one day join the EU.

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