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William Horsley reports from Helsinki
"The EU has spelled out how Turkey must obey international norms on longstanding disputes"
 real 28k

The BBC's Chris Morris
"A lot of bargaining to come in the future"
 real 28k

Greek Foreign Minister
"The decision opens up a new chapter"
 real 28k

Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 02:40 GMT
Turkey accepts EU conditions

Ecevit: Turkey has waited to be asked since 1960s

Turkey has agreed to become a candidate for European Union membership, having set aside its reservations about a series of tough demands imposed by EU governments.

After a brief meeting in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, a relieved-looking Javier Solana, the EU's top foreign-affairs envoy, said "we have a yes".

Mr Solana travelled to Ankara after Turkey initially hesitated about accepting the offer of candidature from EU leaders on the first day of their two-day summit in Helsinki.

Solana Solana rushed to Ankara to calm Turkish unease
Turkey had been seeking clarification on details of the EU summit declaration, which backed Greece rather than Turkey on ways to resolve long-standing disputes between the two countries.

EU leaders insisted that Ankara must improve its record on human rights and refer its territorial disputes with Greece to the International Court of Justice before its long-held wish to join the EU would be considered.

But Prime Minister Ecevit said Turkey had no intention of changing its position on such issues just to please the EU.

Mr Solana said Mr Ecevit would travel to Helsinki for the second day of the Helsinki summit. "The prime minister will arrive on Saturday at midday," Mr Solana said.

At their summit, the EU leaders also announced plans to open membership negotiations with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.

'Great success'

Ankara has waited 36 years for an invitation to join the EU.

Correspondents say that Turkey - overwhelmingly Muslim and a member of Nato - has always had a tense relationship with the EU.

Prime Minister Ecevit said it was ''a great success for Turkey" to be accepted, but he added that there might be details that were "hard for us to digest".

Reports say Turkish officials considered references to submission of territorial disputes with Greece to the International Court of Justice as the main reason for the Turkish hesitation.

Turkey worries about EU support to Greek ideas on Cyprus
The EU offer said Turkey should submit disputes to the court "within a reasonable time" with a review of the issue in 2004.

BBC Ankara correspondent Chris Morris says there are still many grey areas, and Turkey is still nowhere near becoming a member of the EU or even beginning formal negotiations to become one.

Relations reached their lowest ebb in 1997, when the EU ruled that Turkey was not eligible for membership, citing the country's poor human rights record and disputes with Greece.

Turkey retaliated by cutting off political dialogue with the bloc.

There was an easing of tension during 1999, in particular as a result of the open-handed Greek response to the Turkish earthquake.

But Turkey's actions in respect of the death sentence handed down to Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan will test any deal between Turkey and the EU

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