Straw Backs Launch of Turkey EU Accession Talks

PRAGUE (AFP)–Turkey should be allowed to open membership talks with the European Union (EU) since isolating the country would not be in anyone’s interests–British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said during a visit to Prague.

"I know that views differ on this but people need to think very carefully about the strategic implications of pushing Turkey away–of pushing Turkey to the east and to the south. I don’t think that’s in anybody’s interests in Europe," Straw told AFP.

The European Commission is due to announce on October 6 whether it would recommend opening EU accession negotiations with Turkey–whose membership aspirations have sparked controversy.

And EU leaders will decide in December whether to begin membership talks with Ankara based on progress made by Turkish leaders on individual liberties and respect of human rights.

"We have long supported Turkey’s membership of the European Union. Turkey is a European nation and part of Europe’s history–it is entitled as a member of the Council of Europe and NATO to make an application for membership of the European Union and I hope a decision will be made in December for a start to negotiations," Straw said.

"The country has made very considerable progress particularly in the past two years towards meeting the necessary pre-conditions before negotiations can begin," he added.

Straw emphasized that the current debate was only about opening negotiations.

"We are not talking about a finishing date or an accession date," he said.

Earlier–in a speech delivered to a meeting in Prague of Czech ambassadors–Straw backed opening negotiations with Turkey and linked it with Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution in 1989 that brought down the communist regime and brought "values of freedom–tolerance and democracy."

"There would be no better signal of Europe’s wish to support the spread of those universal values than a positive decision to open accession negotiations with Turkey this December," he told delegates.

Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said Monday he supported Turkey’s accession to the EU.

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