23rd Mar 2019

UK and US step up pressure over Turkey talks

Both Britain and the US stepped up the public pressure on the EU to stick to its promise to open membership talks with Turkey next month amid growing concern that the proccess is becoming derailed.

In a strongly worded speech on Thursday (8 September), UK foreign secretary Jack Straw said "We all have an interest in the modernisation of Turkey and of reform there."

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"If we make the wrong decision, we could find that we have a crisis on our own doorstep", said Mr Straw, according to UK media.

He said he believes Ankara's entry into the union would be a blow to those who say there is a "clash of civilisations" between the Muslim world and the West. A refusal to let Turkey in, on the other hand, would fuel islamic extremism.

Britain has always been a strong supporter of Turkey becoming a member of the bloc, and as it currently holds the presidency of the EU, it is in a strong position to influence talks in its favour.

However, despite its efforts, there have been no breakthrough in negotiations which are floundering on the fact that Turkey refuses to recognise Cyprus, an EU member.

An EU statement to counter Turkey's Cyprus position has deeply divided the 25 EU member states, with talks scheduled to open in just under a month.

Member states have also yet to agree the negotiating mandate for Turkey, which lays out the terms and conditions for the talks.

Cyprus on Thursday called for an extraordinary summit of foreign ministers to deal with the issue a week before talks open, but this is something London wants to avoid.

In the meantime, the US which strongly supports Turkey entering the EU for strategic and geopolitical reasons, has been watching closely from the sidelines.

Yesterday, it also chose to make public statements on the matter.

During a visit to Brussels, Kurt Volker, principle deputy assistant US secretary of state, said "It is in the interests of the EU, it is in the interests of Turkey, it is in our interests to see accession talks begin ... I hope that some longer-term perspectives would prevail".

For its part, Turkey has threatened to turn its back on the EU if it does not live up to its promises.

These promises were made by EU leaders in December last year and stated that Turkey must pass certain legislation and extend a customs agreement to all 25 member states, including Cyprus, for talks to begin. These technical conditions have been fulfilled.

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