Turkey angered by Sarkozy 'Mediterranean Union' idea
Turkey has strongly criticised a proposal, floated by France's new president Nicolas Sarkozy, to set up a "Mediterranean Union" as an alternative to the country's bid for full EU membership, urging the French leader to respect the commitments of the past.
"Turkey is a country that has started [accession] negotiations with the European Union. The negotiations started on the basis of a [EU] decision which was taken unanimously, including France," Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul was cited as saying by AFP.
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According to Mr Gul, who has steered Turkey's EU accession talks, "putting obstacles to the progress of the negotiation process would amount to violating signatures and promises made in the past, which I do not think will happen."
Nicolas Sarkozy - known as a firm opponent of Ankara's EU bid – has already indicated he will push for a definition of the bloc's "stable" borders and a re-orientation of talks with the sizeable and relatively poor Muslim country.
The new French leader has suggested forming a loose grouping of 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, with Turkey to be the backbone of the club.
Under Mr Sarkozy's plan, the group – in order to tie southern Europe with Israel and its Arab neighbors – would form an EU-like council with a rotating presidency and deal with topical issues such as energy, security, counter-terrorism, immigration and trade.
But the idea has met with anger in Ankara, with Mr Gul saying "Turkey is one of the Mediterranean countries, but cooperation in the Mediterranean is one thing and cooperation within Europe is something else."
Ankara began negotiations to join the 27-nation bloc in 2005, but talks on most of the key issues are presently frozen because of Turkey's long-standing dispute with EU member Cyprus.
So far, Turkey has completed compliance with EU legislation in only one area - science and research.