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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 16:29 GMT
Turkish PM pledges Western vision
Abdullah Gul
Gul aims to tackle corruption and human rights abuses
Turkey will remain strongly committed to its pro-American and pro-European outlook, new Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has vowed.


Turkey will maintain its focus on both its strategic partnership with the US and its candidacy for EU membership

Abdullah Gul
In his first major foreign policy speech since formally taking office on Monday, Mr Gul sought to reassure sceptics who fear his Islamist-rooted AK party might steer the country away from its Western direction.

Mr Gul, prime minister because of the criminal record of AK party chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, named a 25-strong cabinet team on Monday, which was sworn in on Tuesday.

The AK party insists it has moved away from the radical Islamist policies of its banned predecessors. It now includes other groups, including conservatives.

European tour

But the government knows that suspicions linger in the West, prompting Mr Gul's early reassurance that he remains pro-Western and pro-market.

"During my tenure, Turkey will maintain its focus on both its strategic partnership with the US and its candidacy for EU membership," Mr Gul said in Istanbul.

Mr Gul's comments came as Mr Erdogan continued a tour of European capitals, during which he hopes to make the case for Turkish progress towards membership of the European Union.

Tayyip Erdogan (r) with Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar
AK chairman Tayyip Erdogan is making the EU case across Europe
At the moment, Turkey has not been given a date for the start of membership talks, amid concerns over its human rights record.

Some leading European figures, including ex-French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing, have said a Muslim nation has no place in an alliance of Christian nations.

The new AK government, which won a landslide election victory earlier this month, is lobbying hard to be granted a start-date for talks at an EU summit taking place in Copenhagen in December.

"Turkey awaits a clear and concrete perspective for its membership," said Mr Gul on Tuesday.


Germany and Italy are interested in binding Turkey closer to the West and Europe

Gerhard Schroeder
"At the Copenhagen summit meeting of the EU we rightfully expect a date for the start of accession negotiations."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder later said that an "extra signal" of the EU's commitment would be given to Turkey at the summit, without specifying exactly what that meant.

"Germany and Italy are interested in binding Turkey closer to the West and Europe," Mr Schroeder told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Gul's party has pledged to spend its term in office tackling corruption and human rights abuses, and improving Turkey's economic performance. He also says he will get to grips with the Cyprus question, where the UN is attempting to broker a settlement.

Turkish law may also be changed so Mr Erdogan's criminal record no longer prevents him becoming prime minister.

He earned the conviction by reading an Islamic poem judged to be seditious.

Mr Erdogan was travelling to Germany on Tuesday, on the second day of a tour which will also take him to Dublin, London, Brussels and Strasbourg.

Smaller team

Mr Gul's cabinet contains 10 fewer members than the ousted team of Bulent Evecit.

Key posts went to former ambassador Yasar Yakis, who becomes foreign minister, financial consultant Ali Babacan, who takes over as economics minister, and Abdulkadir Aksu who will run the interior ministry.

But Mr Gul's choice for education minister, Besir Atalay, was rejected by the Turkish president, because of past conduct in a university post which was seen as pro-Islamist. The job went instead to former tourism minister Erkan Mumcu.

The cabinet has one female member - tourism minister Guldal Aksit.

Turkey's election

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18 Nov 02 | Europe
16 Nov 02 | Europe
16 Nov 02 | Europe
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21 Oct 02 | Europe
08 Nov 02 | Europe
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