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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
EU hears fresh doubts over Turkey
French President Jacques Chirac (right) greets European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the Elysee Palace in Paris
Mr Chirac (right) received EU Commission chief Barroso in Paris
Two of Europe's top politicians have voiced fresh concern about the EU's plan to start entry talks with Turkey on 3 October.

The French President, Jacques Chirac, said Turkey's position on Cyprus "poses political and legal problems".

Turkey, which is lobbying hard for EU membership, refuses to recognise the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia.

The favourite to win Germany's general election next month, Angela Merkel, also urged caution on the Turkish bid.

The leader of Germany's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) wrote to 11 European leaders, advising them to offer Turkey a privileged partnership with the EU instead of full membership.

Last month, Turkey signed an accord extending its customs agreement with the EU to the 10 new EU states, including Cyprus. But it said that doing so did not imply that it recognised the government in Nicosia.

Positions harden

Turkey backs a Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the divided island, shunning the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government.

Map of Cyprus
Mr Chirac, who has previously backed Turkey's EU candidacy, says he wants EU foreign ministers to discuss Turkey's position on Cyprus when they meet in Wales next week.

At a meeting in Paris, he told the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, that Turkey's refusal to recognise Cyprus was not in the spirit expected of a candidate state.

Correspondents say the prospect of Turkey joining the EU has worried voters, contributing to the rejection of the proposed EU constitution in the French referendum in May, and surfacing as an election issue in Germany.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has said it is "inconceivable" to open membership talks with a country that does not recognise all 25 EU member states.

Cyprus has been split into the Greek-Cypriot-controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

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03 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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