Germany insists Turkey's EU process is open-ended

28th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany wants Turkey anchored in Europe but the country's ultimate EU membership is not guaranteed, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said here Wednesday.

"Turkey's direction is Europe... We place great importance on deepening mutual ties and binding Turkey to Europe," Westerwelle said through an interpreter after talks with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

He stressed however that "we have agreed on an open-ended process, which is not an automatic process" and called on Turkey to work towards meeting the criteria the accession process requires.

Germany, along with France, are opposed to Turkey's EU accession, arguing that the populous and relatively poor mainly-Muslim nation would not fit into the bloc.

The two EU heavyweights argue the country should settle for a special partnership with the bloc, a proposal Ankara categorically rejects.

In stark contrast, British Prime Minister David Cameron said during a visit to Ankara Tuesday he was "angry" over the slow pace of Turkey's accession talks, declaring himself the country's "strongest possible advocate for EU membership."

Turkey began accession negotiations in 2005, but has so far opened talks in only 13 of the 35 policy areas that candidates have to negotiate.

Eight chapters remain frozen due to Turkey's refusal to open its 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.

The United States and some European officials charged last month that the EU's reticence was driving Turkey eastwards after the country voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme and plunged into a deep crisis with Israel over a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

Efforts for a diplomatic solution to tensions with Iran and the Midde East conflict were also on the agenda of Westerwelle's talks with Davutoglu Wednesday.

The Turkish minister also urged Germany for stronger cooperation against separatist Kurdish rebels fighting the Ankara government, who have extensive support networks among Kurdish migrant communities in Europe.

"We expect a more active, day-to-day operational cooperation against terrorism from our European friends in general, and Germany in particular," he said.

Ankara says that the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist group by both Turkey and the EU, obtains much of its finances through drug trafficking, people smuggling, extortion and money laundering in Europe.

Germany is home to some 3.5 million Turkish immigrants, many of them ethnic Kurds.

© 2010 AFP

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