Ukraine and Turkey top Franco-German talks

2nd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

LUEBECK, Germany, Dec 2 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac suggested Thursday that the European Union could still enjoy close ties with Turkey even if Ankara's membership talks fail, after conferring with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder here ahead of a crucial European Union summit.

LUEBECK, Germany, Dec 2 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac suggested Thursday that the European Union could still enjoy close ties with Turkey even if Ankara's membership talks fail, after conferring with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder here ahead of a crucial European Union summit.

EU leaders are expected to agree to allow Turkey to begin accession negotiations when they meet in Brussels on December 16-17.

Schroeder reiterated in a joint press conference with Schroeder that Germany and France were entering the talks with the aim of Turkey becoming a member.

"Our goal is membership," Schroeder said, although he warned that the negotiations could last 10 to 15 years and the talks would leave the outcome open.

Schroeder has said that his government will not accept proposals from the German opposition Christian Democrats and Austria that the EU should settle for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey rather than offering full membership.

Chirac however appeared to leave the question in the balance.

"If all conditions (for membership) are not met, negotiations will be broken off," he told the press conference.

"Then we will have to ensure that this does not lead to a separation between Turkey and Europe and we must find a sufficiently strong link between these two big cultural, political and economic groupings."

Chirac said that as far as France was concerned, the decision on whether to allow predominantly Muslim Turkey and its 72 million inhabitants to join the EU lay in the hands of French voters when the question is put to them in a referendum.

"This question is absolutely essential," he said.

On the other main thrust of their talks, the political crisis in Ukraine following the disputed presidential election, Chirac said France and Germany were backing the efforts of the European Union's trouble-shooter Javier Solana in helping to resolve the crisis.

The two nations supported all the efforts "to find a way out of the crisis and to find a peaceful solution".

The chancellor has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice by telephone since the crisis erupted and told the German lower house of parliament Wednesday the Russian leader had assured him that he would respect "the result of a democratic process" to resolve the dispute.

Asked about his conversations with Putin, Schroeder said only: "I hope my contribution has been helpful."

Schroeder added that Europe must be diplomatic when making recommendations to Ukraine: "We can give advice, but to give it publicly does not help."

Both Chirac and Schroeder made clear pledges of support for embattled UN Secretary General Kofi Annan whose resignation is being sought by a US senator over the scandal-plagued Iraq oil-for-food program.

"Germany and France reiterate their full support for Kofi Annan whose commitment to the aims of the United Nations is total," Chirac said. Schroeder followed suit.

US President George W. Bush, speaking in Washington on Thursday, called for a "full and fair and open" probe into the oil-for-food scheme in which Annan's son is implicated, but did not back a call from US Senator Norm Coleman, the Republican chairman of the Senate investigations subcommittee, for Annan to step down.

A French official said after the press conference that Schroeder and Chirac had telephoned Annan to offer their "friendship and support".

The two leaders also welcomed proposals for a radical reform of the United Nations which were published this week.

 © AFP

Subject: French News

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