Turkey asks Germany for help if EU bid stalls
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan asked visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to help Turkey if its bid for EU membership becomes deadlocked, most probably because of a dispute with Cyprus.
Merkel has said Turkey's negotiations to join the 27-nation bloc were open-ended, but has advocated that Turkey opts for a "privileged partnership" with the European Union.
Turkey is adamant that it wants nothing less than full membership, and is frustrated by the slow progress. The biggest obstacle it faces relates to a dispute with Cyprus.
Turkey has opened 12 out of 35 negotiating chapters, covering different policy areas, since starting formal entry talks in 2005. But 18 chapters are blocked, mostly because of Cyprus.
Attending a meeting of Turkish and German business leaders with Merkel, Erdogan spoke of the danger of deadlock if Turkey completes the other chapters by the end of this year.
"What will happen next?" said Erdogan, raising the question of whether the remaining chapters could be revised or the European Union would take a new decision on the issue. "We would expect much from Germany at that point," Erdogan said.
Negotiations are still suspended in eight areas that were frozen by the EU in 2006 because of Turkey's failure to comply with a 2005 agreement -- known as the Ankara Protocol -- to open its airports and ports to Cyprus.
Turkey wants the European Union to first end its isolation of Turkish Cypriots living in the north of the divided island, and it hopes that reunification talks will bear fruit.
Turkish Cypriots in 1983 declared a separate state, which is only recognized by Turkey.
Turkish officials now fear that if Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat loses an election next month the reunification talks would suffer a setback and Turkey's drive for EU membership would hit a roadblock.
Merkel, on the second and final day of her visit to Turkey, said the Ankara Protocol had to be addressed to make progress.
"We should advance pragmatically. Advancing pragmatically means continuing the negotiating process. We discussed that the Ankara protocol is probably at the moment the biggest obstacle," she said. "It is the reason for some chapters not being opened."
Aside from the chapters suspended by the EU, Cyprus has blocked a further six chapters, while France has blocked four economic chapters.
Turkish membership is a divisive issue in Europe. Critics say cultural differences with the predominantly Muslim state will hamper integration.
Turkey also has to introduce political and economic reforms and improve its human rights record.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove and Daren Butler; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Dominic Evans)
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