Turkey Says Only Full EU Membership Acceptable

ATHENS (Reuters)–Turkey will accept nothing less than full European Union membership, its EU affairs minister said in an interview published on Sunday, following government efforts in Brussels last week to revive its drive to join.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Ankara was pushing ahead with reforms required for its entry in the EU and rejected proposals by France and Germany offering it enhanced trade and other ties instead of full membership.

“We either become a full member or nothing, there is no alternative,” said Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU, in an interview with Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper.

Bagis said the 27-nation bloc will need Turkey in the future to deal with issues such as terrorism, organised crime, climate change and energy.

The EU agreed in 2005 to open accession talks with Turkey, but negotiations have been moving slowly. In 2006, talks were partly frozen over Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek-Cypriot traffic.

In December, the EU Commission will review a promise by Ankara to open its ports to Cypriot vessels. But Bagis said this would not mean recognition of the Greek-Cypriot administration on the whole island.

“If Turkey opens its ports to Greek-Cypriot vessels, it won’t mean that it recognises the Greek-Cypriot administration as the prevalent country on the whole island,” he said.

“We could move simultaneously, with European states starting business with northern Cyprus and Turkey opening its ports.”

Greece, which came to the brink of war with Turkey in 1996, says it supports its neighbor’s bid to join the EU, provided it resolves disputes and helps reunite Cyprus, divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974.

Talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots resumed last year, after a four-year lull but with few apparent concrete results.

Bagis said Turkey would support a settlement plan if it was accepted by both sides in Cyprus. “It’s time to understand each other and focus on our common interests,” he said.

Bagis also said Turkey should open the Halki Theology School, the country’s only Greek Orthodox seminary, which it has kept closed since 1971, despite calls by the EU.

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