Yilmaz Threatens to Pull EU Membership Bid

ANKARA (Reuters)–Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said on Wednesday Turkey would withdraw its European Union bid if the group did not include it in a list of candidates for membership, state-run Anatolian news agency said.

"Prime Minister Yilmaz announced that Turkey would withdraw its full membership bid by June if the EU does not change its position," Anatolian reported Yilmaz as saying during a fuel stop in Brussels en route for an official US visit.

Yilmaz was quoted as telling reporters that an EU summit including Turkey must be held by June to avoid the withdrawal of Ankara’s application–first put forward in 1963.

He vowed to freeze ties with the EU on Sunday after an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the group’s decision at its Luxembourg summit to exclude Turkey from its formal list of 11 future members.

"We will not change our position until we are put in a basket with the 11 countries," Yilmaz warned.

The 15-nation bloc’s leaders announced on Saturday they were inviting five eastern and central European countries–plus Cyprus–to start membership talks early next year.

A further five countries would be prepared to join formal membership talks later.

Turkey was not included in either group–but was invited to join a special European Conference on enlargement–an invitation Turkey has turned down because it feels it deserves more and is being discriminated against.

Yilmaz was particularly incensed by a series of conditions–from human rights reforms to improved relations with rival Greece–attached to the invitation to the EU enlargement conference.

The summit outcome was a source of deep disappointment to Yilmaz and his secularist political allies who see EU membership as a guarantee of Turkey’s Western vocation.

The European Union tried on Wednesday to reassure Turkey that it has a place in Europe–but remained unrepentant over conditions set by EU leaders for full membership negotiations.

"We did not want to say no to Turkey," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament–reporting on the Luxembourg summit which decided to leave Turkey off the invitation list for formal EU membership talks.


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