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France pledges more help in EU talks, says ball in Turkey’s court

Posted by seumasach on October 13, 2010

Today’s Zaman

13th October, 2010

The French foreign minister on Tuesday said that the European Union could be “real” for Turkey if necessary reforms were carried out, adding that the ball is in Turkey’s court. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is on an official visit to Turkey, said Turkey needed to carry out a number of reforms for talks on three negotiation chapters to begin.

Kouchner said three negotiation chapters are easy to open, pledging French support if necessary reforms are completed. He also said his country still maintains its position on Turkey’s EU membership, but says France is ready to help. France is currently blocking five of 35 negotiation chapters which it considers to be directly concerning accession. France, an adamant opponent of Turkey’s European Union membership bid, offers “privileged partnership” in lieu of full membership.

Speaking in a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, following their bilateral talks on Tuesday, Kouchner said the chapter on competition could be opened by year’s end and that Belgium, currently chairing the rotating presidency of the bloc, appears to be warm to the proposal. The two other chapters, according to Kouchner, are social policies and employment, which he thinks require further reforms. He said Turkey has gone through a referendum process and that a new parliamentary election is in the offing, adding that “the EU could be real for Turkey if necessary reforms are carried out.”

Davutoğlu told reporters that he had asked for France’s “active support” so that negotiations on a number of policy areas may start. Davutoğlu said Turkey’s EU membership is an explicit and strategic goal that is shared by all segments within Turkey. He added that he has requested French support during talks within the EU to push ahead a visa exemption deal with the bloc. “We want the visa procedures to be applied to Turkey as they were applied to the Balkans. Nothing more, nothing less,” Davutoğlu said.

Davutoğlu complained of “political barriers” put forth to block Turkey’s EU membership, citing the Cyprus problem as one of them. Davutoğlu vowed that the prospect to comprehensively settle the Cyprus problem could be realized through calling for a grand conference which would also lift barriers Turkey faces in its long path to the EU.

Davutoğlu said Turkey will not allow Greek Cyprus the use of its ports until a comprehensive solution is found for the island and until Turkish Cypriots are allowed to trade with the EU.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu told reporters on Tuesday following his talks with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek that he had told the EP chief that trust in the EU would be shaken among Turkish Cypriots if the EU again remains under the influence of Greek Cypriots regarding the Direct Trade Proposal and if economic sanctions on them continue.

The EP is currently discussing the adoption of a Direct Trade Proposal, a pledge it made to Turkish Cyprus in 2004 that would make direct trade with the country possible, and Buzek on Monday said the EP’s final decision will be publicized in a few months.

Greek Cyprus has repeatedly warned that it will block six more chapters if Turkey does not live up to its obligations under the Ankara Protocol, which includes opening up Turkish air and sea ports to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft. Greek Cypriot politicians were also in a flurry of diplomacy this summer to spur European politicians to vote “no” on the direct trade proposal, which they believe would make the Turkish Cypriots’ hand stronger in peace talks.

France, Turkey to cooperate on PKK

Turkey and France also agreed on stepping up cooperation in fighting against members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization. Kouchner said this fight is something France attaches importance to. Noting that National Intelligence Organization (MİT) President Hakan Fidan’s visit to Paris last week is a good sign that both countries are cooperating in this field, Kouchner said France will continue decisively in this battle. “We support Turkey in this,” he said.

Turkey has long sought to block the PKK’s financial sources stemming from Europe and urged European partners to adopt a harsher stance in arresting PKK members and blocking its financial resources. According to the latest reports, France recently rejected applications filed by PKK members seeking asylum in France.

Kouchner said terrorists recently increased their threats but added that they should not be taken seriously. He also had talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit.

Davutoğlu, Kouchner inaugurate new high school

Kouchner and Davutoğlu also attended the opening ceremony of the new building of the Charles de Gaulle High School in Ankara, which both ministers said will help improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

In his speech at the opening ceremony Davutoğlu said few nations have interacted as much as Turkey and France. This interaction, the foreign minister said, is the most original, impressive process of modern cultural history. He said he sees students studying in this school as spokesmen of future Turkish-French relations. A total of 450 students are currently enrolled in the high school.

Turkey and France also signed a declaration regarding Turkish religious workers in France. The declaration envisages increasing the number of Turkish imams in France from the current 121 to 151, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced in a written statement on Tuesday. The duration of these workers’ French residence permits has also been extended to five years from the current four. The statement said the signed declaration will help effectively meet the needs of the Turkish community in France and contribute to the improvement of mutual understanding between the Turkish and French peoples.

 

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