Erdogan warns Sarkozy against hostility towards Turkey

15th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

ISTANBUL, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday that hostility towards Turkey's bid to join the European Union would fan anti-Europe sentiments among Turks and damage bilateral ties.

ISTANBUL, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday that hostility towards Turkey's bid to join the European Union would fan anti-Europe sentiments among Turks and damage bilateral ties.

"Mr. Sarkozy has to overcome his prejudices.... If we are to unite civilisations within the EU, if we say the EU is not a Christian club, then Mr. Sarkozy should review his opinions," Erdogan said at the annual assembly of the media watchdog International Press Institute in Istanbul.

Sarkozy is staunchly opposed to Turkey joining the European bloc, arguing that most of its territory is in Asia and that the idea of a united Europe would be diluted if its borders stretch that far.

"My people have concerns vis-a-vis the European Union.... The negative stance of a country (on Turkey's accession) leads to a negative stance against that country here," Erdogan said.

"A mistaken voice to be raised on this issue will change the Turkish people's attitude towards France," he added. "So, Sarkozy probably has to consider that."

Turkey carried out a series of far-reaching democracy reforms to win the green light for EU accession talks in October 2005, despite strong opposition among the European public, notably in France, to the accession of the sizeable and relatively poor Muslim country.

But a row over Ankara's refusal to grant trade privileges to arch-foe Cyprus led the EU in December to freeze talks in eight of the 35 policy areas that candidates are required to complete.

Erdogan struck a note of self-criticism, saying that Ankara had failed to explain to the French public the historically close political relations and  economic exchanges between Turkey and France.

"We have to build warmer ties with the French people," he said.

"I hope our relationship with Mr. Sarkozy will move to a more positive direction in time because, I believe, (countries around) the world need each other," he added.

Sarkozy has called for a "privileged partnership" between the EU and Turkey instead of full membership.

Following Sarkozy's election victory on May 6, the European Commission insisted that accession talks with Turkey would continue and urged France "to take a decision on whether or not Turkey should join based on the results of these negotiations."

Outgoing French President Jacques Chirac was a firm supporter of Turkey's membership aspirations.

Ankara lost another of its main backers in 2005 when Angela Merkel, who also advocates "privileged partnership" with Turkey, succeeded Gerhard Schroeder as Germany's chancellor.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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