Brussels 'welcomes' Cameron's Turkey blast
The EU's enlargement chief "welcomed" British Prime Minister David Cameron's blast on Tuesday against anti-Muslim prejudice which he blamed for sluggish accession talks with Turkey, a spokesman said.
Commissioner Stefan Fuele recently "reaffirmed Turkey's perspective of EU membership, and in this regard we can only welcome the willingness of Prime Minister Cameron to push the process forward," the spokesman said.
"We're glad that the UK is helping to encourage the process," he added of remarks also interpreted as a slight on France and Germany.
Cameron's Britain offered strong support in Turkey for Ankara's limping EU bid, in stark contrast to Berlin and Paris who argue against letting the mainly-Muslim country of over 70 million people become a full member.
"When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing now in Afghanistan alongside European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been," Cameron said.
The EU opened accession talks with Turkey in 2005, but so far around a quarter of the negotiating chapters remain frozen as a sanction for Turkey's refusal to open its sea and air ports to Cyprus, an EU member that Ankara does not recognise owing to the island's 36-year division between its Greek and Turkish communities.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have argued that Turkey should be offered a "privileged partnership" rather than full membership, a proposal that Ankara categorically rejects.
As Fuele formally opened separate entry talks with Iceland elsewhere in Brussels, the commission spokesman underlined: "Of course, the engine of the whole process is the reforms that are taking place in Turkey."
The country is perceived by some political peers and analysts as veering away from the West after Ankara voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme and plunged into a deep crisis with one-time ally Israel when nine Turks were killed in an Israeli operation on a Gaza-bound aid ship.
© 2010 AFP