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Washington File-Boucher Says U.S. Supports Turkey EU Aspirations
2002-10-10 00:11:55

State Department Briefing, 09 October 2002

Following is an excerpt from the regular State Department Daily Briefing with Spokesman Richard Boucher answering questions on Turkey, Cyprus, the European Union, and NATO:

(begin excerpt)
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, October 9, 2002
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

QUESTION: What do you make of the refusal of the European Commission to offer -- to set a date for Turkey to open EU accession talks?

MR. BOUCHER: Let's see where we are on that. I think what we have is reports from the European Commission on the ten countries that are being recommended for membership. We made clear overall that while we're not a member of the European Union, we certainly believe its expansion is a positive and constructive process. It broadens the zone of political stability and economic prosperity in Europe. And I think you'll remember from the President's Warsaw speech and throughout this administration, that's been a major theme of this administration.

We welcome the European Commission's issuance of these reports. It represents another important step towards making the accession of a significant number of countries a reality.

Because we're not a member, we have no formal role in determining the European Union's relations with third countries. We've long believed, however, that Turkey's future is in Europe; it's in the strategic interest of the United States and the European Union, of Turkey and the European Union, that Turkey and the European Union build the closest possible relationship.

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. As the European Union's report noted, Turkey has taken major and positive reform steps in recent months and the Commission recommends that the European Union enhance its pre-accession assistance to Turkey. We hope the European Union will begin accession talks with Turkey as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Diplomats in Washington and in capitals are saying that they are under -- member -- EU member-states are under intense pressure by the United States to grant Turkey membership. Are you making such a push for other candidates?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made clear our view that expansion is a good thing and that we support it. We've long made that clear. We've also made our views clear, I think, consistently that we think that better relations between the European Union and Turkey are important to us. And that's something that we've consistently advocated. So the answer is yes, we've advocated both the general and some of the specifics.

QUESTION: Richard, you say you hope the Commission would start the accession talks as soon as possible. Do you think therefore it was a mistake not to start them now, and are you disappointed that they haven't?

MR. BOUCHER: As I've said, we hope they will begin accession talks with Turkey as soon as possible. We hope they will do what they said in the report to enhance their relationship with Turkey. I think final decisions on this are at the EU summit in Copenhagen in December, so we'll continue to be in touch with the European Union on these questions.

QUESTION: Well, the reaction from Turkey is not happy, obviously. I'm sure you've seen the reports of what the Foreign Minister has said talking about how this will complicate or cement the division of your old bailiwick, Cyprus, and also may complicate things within NATO. Do you share concerns like that?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have put it -- we've emphasized, you might say, the other side of the coin. We've emphasized that closer relations between the European Union and Turkey would enhance the political and economic cooperation of allies and friends throughout this region and it would serve both Turkey's interests and the interests of the European Union, as well as the broader overall interests that we have in this very important region. So we certainly think that what they've done, what they've reported what they intend to do to enhance the relationship, is a positive step, and we think that should continue.

QUESTION: Would those overall interests include NATO unity and a resolution of the Cyprus issue?

MR. BOUCHER: Certainly the European Union can make a contribution to these -- to the Cyprus issue. We've worked with them. Both we and the Europeans support the efforts of the Secretary General in that regard. NATO and the European Union have never been coterminous so it's not exactly a necessity.

QUESTION: Can't the European Union better impact if it holds off until Turkey moves on Cyprus? Turkey is --

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we're not in a position to decide the details of European policy. We certainly discuss all these questions with the Europeans, as well as with the United Nations and the others who are heavily involved in these issues. But in the end, the European Union members decide these things.

QUESTION: On the other hand, do you think it's possible that this would, in fact, stimulate a resolution of the Cyprus conflict?

MR. BOUCHER: You guys can speculate. I'm not going to speculate. We've got people working on all these issues. We certainly support the efforts. We and the Europeans work together to support the United Nations Secretary General, and I'm sure we all want to do whatever we can to support that process.

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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