Turkish PM makes nice with Chirac

7th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

ISTANBUL, Oct 6 (AFP) - Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday sought to soften an outburst against French president Jacques Chirac for having said that Turkey needed a "cultural revolution" to join the EU, but insisted that Europe should respect different cultures.

ISTANBUL, Oct 6 (AFP) - Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday sought to soften an outburst against French president Jacques Chirac for having said that Turkey needed a "cultural revolution" to join the EU, but insisted that Europe should respect different cultures.

"The French leader is in fact a good friend of mine. I did not criticize him but only responded to an unfair critique that was unfortunately made about us," Erdogan told journalists here, Anatolia news agency reported.

"At our first encounter we will discuss this and do what is necessary together," he said.

Chirac, a cautious supporter of Turkey's bid to join the European Union, expressed doubts Tuesday on whether this mainly Muslim country would ever be able to enter the bloc, saying that membership would require "a considerable effort... a major cultural revolution."

In a television interview Wednesday, a visibly irritated Erdogan urged Chirac to "keep his opinions on this issue to himself" and "calm down."

Turkey began membership talks with the EU on Tuesday after fierce wrangling on its accession terms, which underscored the increasing hostility in European public opinion to the admission of this relatively poor country of some 72 million.

Erdogan, a practicing Muslim who started his political career in a now-banned pro-Islamist party, said Thursday that Chirac's remarks appeared as a call on Turkey to deny its own cultural and religious origins and embrace those of Europe.

"We respect the culture of EU countries, but we have our own culture and civilization and they should be respected in the same way.

"The basic creeds of the EU include enrichment by bringing together different cultures... This cannot happen if you say 'you must be like me, you must change your religion.' This is against human nature," Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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