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The Financial Times-October 18, 2002,
2002-10-18 13:44:51

UK advocates EU reward for Turkey
Britain has urged the European Union to reward Turkey for political reforms, suggesting that moves should be made towards giving Ankara a date for accession.

Jack Straw, foreign secretary, said yesterday that Turkey's accession to the EU would benefit Britain and the rest of Europe, as western governments pursue a war on terror. "Turkey is a key member of Nato and a vital ally in the campaign against terrorism," Mr Straw told the German-British Forum in London. It had made "significant progress" towards meeting the necessary political criteria for starting negotiations.

Britain has long been in favour of Turkey becoming an EU member. Mr Straw's remarks accord with Washington's awareness that Turkey will be an important ally in possible military action against Iraq. The US, which already uses a Turkish base to patrol a "no-fly" zone in northern Iraq, is likely to want more co-operation.

Mr Straw's comments also come before crunch negotiations on the internal future of Cyprus, and the year-end completion of talks for it to join the EU in 2004.

The long-standing dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots has not been settled, despite efforts this year. The EU would like the dispute resolved before negotiations on Cyprus' accession are completed, but with Turkey in political and economic turmoil a deal seems increasingly unlikely.

The US is pressuring Brussels to be more flexible with Ankara. Last week the EU said Cyprus would be included and left Turkey's status unclear, a decision that disappointed Ankara. It praised Turkey's reforms, including the abolition of the death penalty, but was not ready to open talks.

Turkey's desire to join the EU and the progress it had made required "reciprocal signals" from Brussels, Mr Straw said. Greece has also backed Turkey's accession.

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