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France says Turkey-EU talks should continue

PARIS, April 8 (AFP) – French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Thursday that the country’s policy on Turkish membership in the European Union remains unchanged, despite a statement from the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) opposing the start of accession talks for Ankara in 2004.

“The French government pays heed to everything that is said in domestic political debate, especially when it comes from parties belonging to the parliamentary majority, but our position on this question remains what it was,” Barnier said at a press conference.

“No government or minister in France has suggested breaking off the dialogue” between the EU and Turkey, he said.

On Wednesday the president of the centre-right UMP party, Alain Juppe, said countries on the periphery of the growing EU, such as Turkey, “have no business joining (the bloc), otherwise it will be diluted.”

“The UMP does not want to see discussions with Turkey at the end of the year,” Juppe said – prompting an angry reaction from Ankara.

The EU, which expands to 25 members next month, must decide by December whether to open accession talks with Turkey, which was given the status of candidate country at the Helsinki summit in 1999.

                                                                 Subject: French news