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Turkey's Erdogan meets Sarkozy in Paris despite EU divide

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-07

Turkish Prime Minister met French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the second day of his visit to Paris, in the hopes of boosting relations between the two countries, despite France's strong opposition to Turkey's EU membership bid.

REUTERS - France reiterated its opposition to European Union membership for Turkey during a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, and a minister said the two countries had agreed to disagree.

In a bilateral meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy accepted Erdogan's invitation to come to Turkey and see its progress for himself, but both sides repeated their widely diverging views on Turkey's potential for EU membership.

"We agree to disagree," European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche told reporters after Erdogan met Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

"Turkey has its project, that of integrating with the 27 (EU members). We respect this project but we have our own project, that of a big Europe, the 27 in a partnership with Russia and Turkey," Lellouche added.

Turkey has rejected the proposal of a "privileged partnership", put forward by France as well as Germany.

While the question of EU membership is a continued source of tension between Europe and Turkey, Ankara has emerged as an increasingly important player in global politics, notably on the issue of Iran's nuclear programme.

As Western powers try to negotiate a new sanctions resolution against Iran in the United Nations Security Council, of which Turkey is a non-permanent member, Erdogan has voiced scepticism over that plan.

Earlier this week, he expressed support for his "dear friend", Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the meeting with Sarkozy on Wednesday, Erdogan said once more he believed in a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran, a source close to the French president's office said.

In a separate meeting with French business leaders, the Turkish prime minister said he wanted to lift the value of his country's trade with France by about 50 percent over the next two years.

Erdogan said Turkey wanted its foreign trade with France to rise to 15 billion euros ($20 billion) in 2012 from around 10 billion euros at present.

Date created : 2010-04-07