ASSOCIATED PRESS- World Politics
U.S. State Department calls on Europeans to move swiftly on membership for Turkey
Wed Oct 9, 6:08 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Asserting that Turkey's future is in Europe, the U.S. State Department on Wednesday urged the European Union (news - web sites) to move toward membership for Turkey as soon as possible.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration "will continue to be in touch" with the European Union on this view until there is a final decision at a December summit meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.
At the same time, Boucher welcomed a declaration by the EU's executive board inviting eight east European nations, Cyprus and Malta to join the European Union in 2004.
The commission, based in Brussels, Belgium, was silent on when it would begin membership talks with Turkey, an EU candidate since 1999.
A commission report said Turkey still failed to meet political and economic membership's criteria and needed to clean up its human rights records.
Boucher said "we certainly believe (the European Union's) expansion is a positive and constructive process."
He said it broadens the zone of political stability and economic prosperity in Europe.
While noting that the United States is not a member of the EU, Boucher said: "We have long believed that Turkey's future is in Europe. It's in the strategic interest of the United States and the European Union, Turkey and the European Union, that Turkey and the European Union build the closest possible relationship."
He added: "We support Turkey's aspirations to become a member of the European Union. We see the European Union's report as a positive step in that direction."
At the Cyprus embassy, Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcoullis said, "It's a historic day for Cyprus, the same way it is a historic day for Europe ? primarily for Europe because this is the continuation of the process for the unification of Europe."
The ambassador said Turkey has a lot to do before gaining membership in the European Union. "Certainly, Turkey knows that having a settlement in Cyprus would facilitate its own accession process toward the European Union," she said.
In 1974 Turkish troops seized control of part of the island country, which declared itself a separate state. The Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia has been trying unsuccessfully to reverse the takeover.