Turkey Threatens to Review Its EU Ties

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Turkey said on Friday it would need to review its relations with the European Union if a December summit did not set a date to begin accession talks in 2003.

A draft for the conclusion of the Copenhagen summit obtained by Reuters showed the EU executive did not expect to propose a date for Turkey at the meeting–scheduled to conclude entry negotiations with 10 other mainly east European candidates.

"Turkish-EU relations will be greatly damaged and Turkey will be forced to review relations with the EU in every respect if the EU side does not give it a date to begin membership talks in 2003," Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolian news agency.

Gurel–who is campaigning for November 3 elections–may no longer be foreign minister when the summit meets if a new government has been formed by then.

Opinion polls suggest his Democratic Left Party–led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit–may not win any seats in a vote expected to be won by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)–an untried grouping many suspect of Islamic leanings.

Ecevit said on Friday European Union leaders would likely await the result of the November polls before making their decision at Copenhagen.

"They will probably continue with their delaying tactics until then. People have to be patient," he told reporters in Ankara.

Despite strong pressure from NATO ally the United States–an October European Commission report said mainly Muslim Turkey must still make strides in human rights and the economy before membership talks can begin.

But Turkey disagrees–saying it has done enough after parliament approved a swathe of EU-inspired reforms in August–including lifting the death penalty in peacetime and granting language and cultural rights to its Kurdish minority.

"We have done all that was required of us in our national programme," Gurel told CNN Turk television in a later interview. "We will–in all likelihood–also review our customs union with the European Union."

The agreement with Brussels is designed to bring customs regulations and charges in line with EU member states.

The European Commission praised Turkish legislation in its October report but said Ankara must take greater implementation measures.

"Our people–political parties and institutions are all behind the process… We did not expect this kind of reaction to the reforms we made. We should have been given more credit," said Volkan Vural–Turkey’s secretary general for EU affairs.

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