Ankara fails to dent Sarkozy's opposition to EU bid

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to work more closely to boost business and diplomatic ties after a meeting in Paris. But Ankara failed to dent French opposition to Turkey's bid to enter the EU bloc.


AFP - President Abdullah Gul and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Friday to boost business and diplomatic ties although the Turkish leader failed to dent French opposition to his country's EU bid.

On the third and final day of a visit to Paris, Gul held a working lunch at the Elysee palace with Sarkozy, who has spearheaded a drive to keep mainly-Muslim Turkey out of the European Union.

The Turkish president made no press statement after the hour-long meeting, which Sarkozy's office said had "concluded with a resolve to work more closely together, in all fields both diplomatic and economic."

Sarkozy suggested that Paris and Ankara could work together on civilian nuclear energy, according to the Elysee, which said Gul welcomed the idea as "very encouraging."

Gul also told Sarkozy Ankara would welcome GDF Suez back to the EU-led Nabucco pipeline project linking Central Asia to Europe, after the French giant was sidelined from the six-nation consortium early last year.

Officials suggested at the time that Ankara vetoed France's bid in reprisal for the French parliament's recognition as genocide of the World War I mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.

Gul assured Sarkozy that "French companies are welcome in the project," the Elysee said.

The two leaders failed however to narrow their differences on Ankara's EU bid, although they had agreed "not to let this question poison wider relations between the two countries."

Sarkozy reaffirmed "in a very frank manner the French position" while Gul "recalled Turkey's views in just a frank and friendly manner."

"All issues were raised in a good spirit of cooperation and mutual respect," the Elysee said.

Earlier Gul and Sarkozy jointly opened a major Paris exhibition on Istanbul, the flagship event in a season of events celebrating Turkish history and culture in France.

The Turkish leader also met twice with Prime Minister Francois Fillon during his Paris stay, with both calling for France and Turkey to step up reciprocal business investments.

Before heading to France, Gul insisted his mainly-Muslim state was making good progress on reforms required by the 27-nation bloc.

Turkey began membership negotiations in 2005, but has so far opened talks in only 11 of the 35 policy areas that candidates must complete, while France, Germany and other EU members have sought to slow or halt the process.

Sarkozy says Turkey -- of which only a portion is geographically in Europe and whose large population would be the first in the bloc to be mainly Muslim -- should settle for a partnership agreement.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app