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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Turkey insists EU dream on course
Abdullah Gul (l) with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
Abdullah Gul says he is confident about October talks
Turkey has insisted its hopes for full membership of the European Union are on course, despite tension with several existing members.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told journalists he was confident that talks would start in October as planned.

Mr Gul had earlier been quoted as saying that Turkey would walk away from the EU for good if there were attempts to water down its membership.

There is continuing opposition in parts of the EU to full Turkish membership.

Suggestions for some kind of partnership status, rather than full membership, have been led by German opposition leader Angela Merkel - expected to win a general election later this month.

I can't see any problem that will prevent the start of talks on 3 October
Abdullah Gul
Turkish FM

She has argued that a "privileged partnership" status should be among the options put under discussion when the talks start in Luxembourg on 3 October.

A separate row has developed over Cyprus, with Turkey signing a customs agreement with all member states but refusing to allow Cyprus to use its ports or airport.

Turkey has also renewed its refusal to recognise the Cypriot government, which in effect rules only the Greek Cypriot part of the island, while Turkish Cypriots remain under a separate breakaway administration.

Doubts about Turkish membership were strengthened when many voters in France and the Netherlands cited fears about Turkey as a contributing factor in their decision to reject the EU constitution.

Many people's concerns focus on its large, low-income population. Others insist that the EU is essentially a club for Christian countries, or argue that much of Turkey is geographically in Asia, despite its Western-looking political leadership.

Confidence

Foreign Minister Mr Gul, speaking after meeting his EU counterparts in Wales on Friday, told Turkish journalists he remained confident.

"I can't see any problem that will prevent the start of talks on 3 October," he said.

Turkish woman walks past poster of women wearing EU flag
Opponents say a large Muslim population has no place in the EU

He had previously warned against imposing any new conditions, or trying to shift the goalposts to a partnership status.

"Should they (the EU) propose anything short of full membership, or any new conditions, we will walk away, and this time it will be for good," he told the Economist magazine.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey has done everything it has been asked to, in order to prepare for membership.

"Now Turkey has nothing more to give (the EU)," he said.

"We have done everything related to the Copenhagen political criteria."

The EU is thought likely to insist that Turkey does grant access to Cypriot planes and ships, and does in time move to recognise Cyprus.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said full implementation of the customs pact was "clearly a red line for the EU and is not a matter of negotiation".


SEE ALSO:
Europe's historic new step
18 Dec 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Cyprus
16 Aug 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
31 Aug 05 |  Country profiles


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