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25th Mar 2017

British queen praises Turkey's EU credentials

The British queen has praised Turkey's EU membership credentials on a rare state visit, amid pageantry reflecting the country's mixture of Islamic and western traditions.

"Turkey is uniquely positioned as a bridge between east and west at a crucial time for the European Union and the world in general," the monarch said at a banquet in Ankara on Tuesday (13 May).

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  • The queen had not been to Turkey since 1971 (Photo: wikipedia)

"The prospect of accession to the European Union has already helped to inspire changes that are improving the lives of its citizens," she added, calling Turkey a "confident and dynamic democracy."

Her unusually political speech - delivered alongside British foreign minister David Milliband - stressed that "Turkey is as important now as it has ever been" to the UK, mentioning the country's "strategic location" and its role "in promoting secure supplies of energy."

"The United Kingdom has become one of our most loyal supporters in Turkey's march toward membership of the European Union," Turkish president Abdullah Gul said at the dinner, AP reports.

The carefully orchestrated event saw Mr Gul wearing a western-style tuxedo as the queen made him an honorary knight grand cross of the civil division of the most honourable order of the bath - a British gesture of respect.

But the president's wife wore an Islamic headscarf, highlighting the current Turkish government's religious beliefs despite official restrictions against religious symbols at state events.

Queen Elizabeth II's four day-trip will see her visit the Green Mosque complex in Bursa on Wednesday and host a cocktail party on board a British warship stationed near Istanbul on Thursday.

It is her first visit to Turkey since 1971, eight years after the country first became an "associate member" of the EU in 1963.

The country opened formal EU accession talks in 2005, but progress stalled in 2006 due to a political dispute with EU member Cyprus, with eight of the 35 accession treaty "chapters" still frozen.

EU giants France and Germany openly oppose Turkish membership, calling for a "privileged partnership" with Ankara instead.

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