France backs Turkish EU talks for late-2005

10th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Dec 9 (AFP) - France wants the European Union to open membership talks with Turkey at the end of next year or early 2006, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on Thursday.

BRUSSELS, Dec 9 (AFP) - France wants the European Union to open membership talks with Turkey at the end of next year or early 2006, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on Thursday.

"We want the membership talks to be opened at the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006. We will see which date the heads of state will choose, it's their responsibility," Barnier said.

Speaking in Brussels on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, he also said EU leaders should next week agree on a contingency plan in case talks with Ankara break down.

EU leaders are expected to take a decision on Ankara's bid for membership of the bloc at a two-day summit in Brussels next week.

Earlier on Thursday, before leaving for meetings with political leaders in Brussels, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara expected EU leaders to set a firm date for starting the negotiations.

Barnier said that although Paris wants the talks to succeed, the EU leaders should lay down a plan in case they break down.

"That will remain an open process, whose conclusion has not been written in advance," he said.

If the talks failed, he said, Paris wanted "another option...where we can clearly see that everything that has been done between Turkey and the EU over this time should not be lost and that a link of one kind or another - very strong - should be organised between the EU and Turkey," he added.

He did not go as far as to describe this as the kind of scaled back partnership opponents of Turkey's EU membership would like to see.

"I have not defined it...We cannot define it today, but you have to plan for it," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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