ANKARA: Turkey Does Not See E.U. Membership As An Absolute Necessity

Cihan News, Turkey
July 21 2004

Turkey Does Not See E.U. Membership As An Absolute Necessity

PARIS (CIHAN) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on
Tuesday that Turkey wants EU membership, but it is not an absolute

Erdogan told reporters at Paris’ International Conference Center that
Turkey adopted the Copenhagen criteria to enhance the living
standards of the Turkish people. “Turkey will adopt the Copenhagen
political criteria and consider them as the Ankara political
criteria. We will continue progressing on our own path even if the EU
fails to open accession talks with Turkey.”

Erdogan has been paying a three-day visit to France to promote
Turkey’s EU membership drive.

EU leaders will decide in December whether to open entry talks with
Ankara. France is seen as the only large EU state that still harbors
reservations about admitting Turkey.

London, Berlin, Rome and Madrid support Turkey’s EU membership while
Paris and Vienna are still skeptical.

The Turkish Prime Minister said that there is a false impression
created among the European public that Turkey would become a EU
member in December. “In fact, Turkey will just start accession talks
in December 17 EU summit.”

Erdogan said that Turkey would not accept a conditional opening of
accession talks. He said that the Copenhagen criteria are the
conditions for opening accession talks. “The EU should open accession
talks with when Turkey fulfills the EU criteria.”

Erdogan also said Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have taken advanced
steps to bring about a solution to the Cyprus conflict in line with
the expectations of EU countries.

Turkish Cypriots voted heavily in favor of reunification (65% voted
yes) on the April 24 referendum while Greek Cypriots, defying
international community, overwhelmingly rejected (only 25% voted yes)
the UN peace plan and entered EU as the only representative of the

Prime Minister Erdogan said that the accession of the Greek Cypriot
side into the EU contravenes EU law.

When asked about acknowledging an Armenian genocide, Erdogan said
that historians should deal with the issue. “As politicians, we
should not scratch the wounds of the past but concentrate on building
the future.”

Erdogan said that Turkey is ready to open its border with Armenia,
which has been closed for years over the Nagorna Karabag issue. He
said the border could be opened if the Armenian Diaspora finishes its
campaign for recognition of a genocide.”

The French National Assembly, despite warnings from Turkey, adopted a
draft bill in 2001 acknowledging an Armenian genocide.

Erdogan reiterated that Turkey is against the superiority or
dominance of one ethnic group over another in Iraq. “The autonomy of
one ethnic group in Iraq could spark civil war,” Erdogan warned.

Erdogan also added that there is no crisis with Israel. “By acting
wrongly Israel opened itself to criticism. Israel did the wrong thing
during its raid into the Janin refugee camp where dozens of people
were killed. We told Israel that they made a mistake.”