(dpa/Cyprus Mail)–European Union foreign ministers meeting their Turkish counterpart in Luxembourg this week will insist on Ankara’s recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide–French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Monday.
Though recognition of the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenia’s by Ottoman Turks between 1915-1923 is not a formal condition for Turkish membership of the EU–Barnier insisted the EU would raise the issue during membership negotiations with Turkey set to open in Brussels in October this year. Ankara would have to respond–he said. The entire EU project was founded on the principle of reconciliation–said Barnier.
"That is what the Germans and the French did and that is what Turkey has to do… that is the challenge for Turkey?" to "reassess its past concerning the Armenian genocide," Barnier added.
Turkey has always insisted that there was no Armenian genocide.
The ministers also called for an early signing of an agreement extending Turkey’s customs union with the EU to all new member states–saying it would be "an important step towards normalization of the relations between Turkey and all EU member states–including the Republic of Cyprus."
They also expressed concern about the lack of progress on religious freedom and minority rights–and called on the Ankara government to ensure full civilian control of Turkey’s powerful military.
EU leaders agreed last December to open talks with Turkey on October 3–but also set firm conditions for starting negotiations–saying Turkey had to see through reforms to ensure it met the bloc’s standards on democracy–rule of law and civil liberties.
EU and Turkish ministers hold regular talks today to discuss Ankara’s progress towards membership of the 25-nation bloc.
In a paper outlining what Turkey needs to do–the EU expressed "serious concerns" about cases of torture still occurring and called on Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan’s government to enforce a zero-tolerance policy to eradicate ill-treatment.