Turkey Top Advisory Body Asks EU to Set Talks Date

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK)–an influential advisory body of generals and civilians–urged the European Union on Tuesday to give Turkey a date for membership talks at a December summit in Copenhagen.

The European Union has said Turkey–the only Muslim candidate for membership–needs to improve its patchy human rights record before talks can begin–and a recent report said Turkey had not fully met the EU conditions.

But Ankara wants Brussels to set a date for the start of talks anyway.

Turkey will also have to take steps to increase civilian control of the military to meet European Union standards.

The great influence of the MGK–an advisory body whose monthly recommendations are rarely challenged by Turkey’s political leaders–is a central issue.

"The (EU) members should meet the expectations of the Turkish people with regard to moving things forward in a way that will include setting a date for Turkey’s membership talks at the summit in Copenhagen," said a written statement released after the MGK’s regular meeting.

The European Commission’s October report recommended that 10 countries–including the divided island of Cyprus–complete accession talks in December and join the 15-nation bloc in 2004–a historic event that would unify most of Europe.

Despite heavy US pressure–the Commission proposed no date for starting accession talks with Turkey–a key regional ally of Washington–a NATO member and a neighbor of Iraq.

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