Turkey Slams Sarkozy, Pushes for Speeding Up EU Talks

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey denounced new French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s vocal opposition to its EU membership bid Thursday and urged the opening of more chapters in its turbulent accession talks. "Turkey’s European Union objective is clear," foreign ministry spokesman Levent Bilman told reporters. "Turkey’s status is also very clear — it is a country which has started negotiations and the target of these negotiations has been determined as nothing but full membership." Bilman was reacting to Sarkozy saying Wednesday in Brussels that he would not drop his opposition to Turkey’s membership, a position he highlighted during his election campaign. "Statemen’s that may have negative reflections on the negotiating process… are not encouraging for Turkey and it is better not to make such statemen’s," he said. Meanwhile, in an apparent conciliatory gesture, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned the French leader to congratulate him for his victory in the presidential elections, an aide to Erdogan said. "We should not communicate with each other via the media," the aide quoted Erdogan as telling Sarkozy. "We should work together through direct talks." He declined to say whether the two leaders exchanged any concrete remarks on Turkey’s EU bid. Erdogan warned Sarkozy last week that hostility towards Turkey’s EU aspirations would fan anti-Europe sentimen’s among Turks and damage bilateral ties. The French president, who took office last week, has argued that most of Turkey’s territory is in Asia and that the idea of a united Europe would be diluted if its borders stretch that far. Turkey conducted far-reaching democracy reforms to win the green light for accession talks in October 2005, despite strong opposition in European public opinion, notably in France. A row over Ankara’s refusal to grant trade privileges to Cyprus led the EU in December to slow down the negotiations by freezing talks in eight of the 35 policy areas that candidates are required to complete. Ending a long hiatus in the talks, the EU last month began negotiations with Turkey on "enterprise and industry policy," only the second chapter Ankara has managed to open since "science and research" in June 2006. Despite Sarkozy’s opposition, Ankara hopes to begin negotiations in three more chapters — economic and monetary policy, statistics and financial control — in June, Bilman’said. "The president in question (Sarkozy) represents only one member of the European Union… We believe the EU will make an objective decision and negotiations will be opened in June on these three chapters," he said. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn last week played down concerns that Sarkozy would put the brakes on Turkey’s membership bid and said that new talks with Ankara could begin before the end of June.

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