Turks Question EU Sincerity Amid Accession Snags, Genocide Accusations

Published November 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Turkey has began to question the EU's sincerity on its membership prospects amid growing anxiety over what it sees as EU moves to attach strings to its accession and a wave of accusations that Turks committed genocide against Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. 

The traditional ties of love-and-hate between Turkey and the EU appeared to be on the verge of a new "hate" chapter Saturday when Ankara threatened to "revise" relations with the EU if its accession was tied to the solution of the Cyprus conflict and territorial disputes with Greece. 

"They put conditions that we cannot accept and expect us to be the spoil-sport. This is a clear provocation," Sukru Sina Gurel, state minister for Cyprus affairs, told the Sabah daily Sunday. 

"We have a political will to join the EU. But do they have it as well? We cannot see good intentions," he added. 

Turkey's anger stemmed from an EU-penned program of reforms last week, which urged Ankara to back UN efforts to settle the 26-year-long division of the island of Cyprus as a short-term objective. 

Ankara welcomed demands for drastic reforms in the program, but rejected the reference to Cyprus, which it saw as a condition attached to its accession process towards ultimate membership. 

While expecting a rectification, Turkey learnt the EU might discuss adding the settlement of territorial disputes between Turkey and EU member Greece to the document at a meeting of the general affairs council Monday, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said. 

In the meantime, moves by the European Parliament and Italian and French legislators to put pressure on Ankara to acknowledge claims that its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, committed genocide against Armenians in the early 1900s, further fanned Ankara's ire. 

"Turkey deserves criticism on many issues. But the criticism went beyond reasonable limits to a point where Turkey's history is being judged and it is declared guilty of genocide," Sedat Ergin wrote in the mass-circulation daily Hurriyet. 

"This could result in strong anti-west sentiments, which leads us to suggest that what lies beneath could be a plot to keep Turkey out of the Union," he added. 

Turkey fiercely opposes any reference to the Cyprus conflict and its rows with Greece in documents related to its accession process. 

Ankara says the resolution of these problems is not up to Turkey unilaterally and that their formulation as conditions for Turkey's entry provide EU member Greece and Greek Cyprus, a first-wave candidate, with a comfortable ground to remain intransigent. 

"The EU must have decided to put Turkey off," Hurriyet's Oktay Eksi said. "Now they should decide whether they want Turkey in or not, and we should make up our mind whether we can take more humiliations." 

The EU declared Turkey a membership candidate last December, opening the door for a flare-up of debates on both sides whether a Muslim country with a troubled democracy could improve and eventually fit into the Union. 

Huseyin Bagci, a professor of international relations, said Turkey does not have the luxury to go backwards in its relationship with the EU if it wants to sustain its modernization process. 

"Those who do not want to see Turkey in the EU are trying to touch on its sore spots. If Turkey steps into this trap this will only help its adversaries," Bagci told AFP. 

"There have always been problems and there will be problems in the days to come. The two sides should learn how to manage each other if they care about their future," he said. 

Bagci also blamed the Turkish government for "dragging its feet on an array of reforms it was supposed to carry out a long time ago." 

"Now that the EU demands these reforms, they are perceived as pressure," he said -- ANKARA (AFP)  



© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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