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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 16:10 GMT
Turkey demands EU talks date
Abdullah Gul
Gul says Turkey has fulfilled the EU's demands
Turkish leaders have said they will not settle for anything less from the EU's Copenhagen summit next week than a firm date for membership talks to begin.


There is a general belief that Turkey is a Muslim country and that whatever it does it will not be able to acced to the EU

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul
They were speaking after the German and French leaders announced on Wednesday that they would present a joint Franco-German position to the summit, but failed to meet expectations that they would name a date immediately.

"What matters for us is a definite date for talks and Turkey deserves this. We do not want to get less than that," Prime Minister Abdullah Gul told Turkish television.

He said that if the Copenhagen summit did not produce a date the Turkish public would take it as confirmation of fears that the EU sees itself as a Christian club to which Muslim nations will never be admitted.

Reforms promised

In recent days EU officials have been suggesting that a firm date - possibly June 2004 - could be well be offered to the Turks.


We do not accept 'a date for a date' or 'a conditional date'

AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan
At its Brussels summit in October, EU leaders said Turkey had not yet met the political criteria for membership - a reference to continuing concern over the human rights situation in the country.

Pressure has since been building for the Copenhagen summit to send a more encouraging signal, but some countries still believe it would be premature to set a firm date.

Diplomats have suggested that one possible compromise would be to give Turkey a date when a timetable for the start of membership talks would be fixed.

Javier Solana
Solana: Pressure on Turkey to help with Cyprus
But the leader of Turkey's governing AK Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Thursday that this would not be enough.

He told the Radikal newspaper: "We do not accept 'a date for a date' or 'a conditional date'. This should not be turned into a way of putting Turkey off."

The country has committed itself to a raft of reforms that would meet all the EU's concerns.

Cyprus bargaining chip

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday they were convinced the Copenhagen summit would provide "a clear signal" for Turkey".

They gave no details, but sources quoted by the AFP news agency said they are proposing that EU leaders should meet at the end of 2004 to discuss Turkey's progress.

The US is strongly pressing the EU to set a date at Copenhagen for talks on Turkey's accession to begin.


I doubt whether this will happen
R Chickrie, USA

To read more of your comments, click here
Supporters for the idea within the EU include the UK, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

Officials are aware that Turkey could hold the key to resolving the division of Cyprus.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told the BBC on Wednesday that he was hopeful Turkey would receive a "clear answer" in Copenhagen.

However, he added the answer would be less positive if Ankara did not exert all political pressure to get Turkish Cypriot leaders to agree to a UN sponsored peace plan for Cyprus by next week.


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02 Dec 02 | Europe
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25 Oct 02 | Europe
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