Turkish president slams 'sad' opponents of EU bid

8th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Monday criticised EU leaders who oppose his country's bid to join as "sad" and "short-sighted", saying Ankara would help the bloc deal with a changing world.

Turkey began entry talks in 2005 but they have slowed due to growing opposition from some quarters, notably France, Germany and Austria, over issues including human rights and an impasse over Cyprus.

"The EU will not be weaker but stronger both politically and economically with Turkey's membership," Gul said in a speech to the Chatham House think-tank in London on the eve of receiving its annual prize for statesmanship.

"It is sad to observe that some European leaders do not properly see the future of the world in the span of 20, 50, 70 years time.

"This short-sighted vision is the major impediment before the idea of the EU as a global actor capable of assuming greater responsibilities on political and security issues complementing its economic clout."

Gul said it was a "strategic imperative" to allow Turkey to join the 27-nation club to maintain its relevance as the "international balance of power tends to shift towards the east and Asia."

Gul's comments came days after a draft annual EU report on countries seeking membership said that Turkey's best chance to jumpstart its bid would be to adopt a new constitution, instead of merely amending the current one.

However in a separate BBC interview, Gul said that Turkey faced "very artificial, unfair obstacles" from the EU, despite doing everything that had been asked of it.

Gul's citation for the 2010 Chatham House Prize describes him as a "significant figure for reconciliation and moderation within Turkey and internationally" including helping negotiations on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran turned to its neighbour again on Sunday when it said it was ready to hold talks in Turkey with the six world powers on its atomic ambitions.

On the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Turkish leader told HARDTalk on BBC World news that his country would not tolerate Iran having nuclear weapons.

"But we have to work hard before going to war and apply all the diplomatic force, you see, and that is what we have been doing now and Turkey is a chance for the alliance," he said.

Queen Elizabeth II will present the award at a gala dinner on Tuesday.

© 2010 AFP

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