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Low expectations of Sarkozy's visit to Turkey fulfilled

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 2/25/2011 12:00:00 AM |

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, on his first visit to Turkey, reiterated Friday his country’s insistence on finding an alternative to full Turkish membership in the EU.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, on his first visit to Turkey and the first visit of any French head of state in 19 years, reiterated Friday his country’s insistence on finding an alternative to full Turkish membership in the European Union.

“I think that it is better to talk things out now than to one day reach a dead end,” said Sarkozy in a joint press conference with Turkey's President Abdullah Gül at the Presidency. “All countries have red lines. All countries have a public. Discussion is needed to reach an agreement. We will continue to seek ways for the future.”

Meanwhile, Gül asked France not to hinder the negotiation process.

Turkish mayor's chewing gum retort

The mayor of Ankara chewed gum when he saw off Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of a visit to Turkey in retaliation to similar "disrespect" by the French president, Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.

Mayor Melih Gökçek, a colorful but controversial figure in Turkish politics, was part of the delegation that greeted and then saw off Sarkozy at the airport during his brief visit to Turkey on Friday.

"Sarkozy came down the steps of the plane chewing a wad of gum. He stopped for a moment, looked around and continued to chew. ... I personally was offended," Gökçek told Anatolia.

"Previously, he showed similar disrespect to our President Abdullah Gül in France," the mayor said, without elaborating.

"And when we were seeing him off, I never took out the chewing gum from my mouth. ... Someone had to respond. I believe I responded diplomatically. ... There is something called reciprocity," he said.
ANKARA — Agence France-Presse

Sarkozy, a vocal opponent of Turkey’s accession to the European Union, visited Turkey for a couple of hours as the current G-20 chairman, despite the Turkish government’s willingness to host him longer. That was interpreted as the French leader’s message to Ankara that he wants to keep the Turkey visit low-profile, avoiding an official visit and instead making a working trip.

Turkey did not hide its disappointment of Sarkozy’s very short visit by keeping a low-profile welcome for the French president with no Cabinet minister arriving at the airport.

Sarkozy’s first stop was at the Presidential Palace where he held comprehensive talks with Gül. After visiting Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum, to pay his respect to the founder of the Republic, Sarkozy met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Among the issues Gül and Sarkozy discussed were the French proposals for reshaping the world’s economic order during a summit this fall in Cannes, Turkey’s EU bid, the developments in the Middle East and bilateral issues.

Recalling that he was the first French president visiting Turkey since 1992, Sarkozy said it was a clear show of his administration’s willingness to work closely with Turkey.

“I am very happy to be in Turkey,” said Sarkozy. “A French president has not been to Turkey since 1992. That is a very long time. I am very pleased to be the president to end the 19-year gap. Turkey’s contributions in the G-20 are very important to us. I am conducting visits to the most important G-20 members. I’ve found Turkey’s role in the international plan very important for a very long time now. The world needs a Turkey that takes initiative for its stability.”

Upon Gül’s invitation, Sarkozy confirmed that he would like to make a state visit to Turkey in 2011 and would be extremely happy if his itinerary would also include Istanbul, which he described as one of the most beautiful cities of the world.

However, the tone of positive appraisal changed when journalists questioned the French opposition to Turkey’s full membership in the EU. Both officials have agreed to disagree on this issue, he said.

“There is an obvious subject we do not agree on,” he said. “We have spoken about this as heads of state, and tried to understand both sides. We tried to find a path that both prevents Europe from becoming unstable and degrades the Turkish people. We may have different views, but we will continue working together.”

Recalling that the negotiation process had begun with the consent and approval of all EU members, Gül said Turkey was expecting the implementation of the principle of pacta sund servanda from all members. “This is not a call only to France but all member countries,” Gül said.

Recalling that countries like France and Austria have already taken decisions to hold referendums for the entry of Turkey to the EU when Ankara completes the negotiations, Gül said Turkey would respect the decision of these nations if they said “no” in the future.

Sarkozy, on the other hand, said he was not against the continuation of the negotiations but he was against using them as a pretext for Turkey’s future membership.

“I know Turkey is against formulas presenting partnership,” he said, adding that such discussions would pave the way for determining the best way to overcome the disagreement.

[HH] Offer for nuclear bid

But when the discussion came to improving bilateral economic relations, Sarkozy said they were ready to offer cooperation, especially in the field of nuclear energy.

“We have offered Turkey cooperation in the nuclear field with no limits. This is a sign of our faith in Turkey’s stability. The French democracy is clearly on the side of Turkish democracy,” said Sarkozy.

The trade volume between Turkey and France totaled nearly 12 billion euros in 2010 and the objective is to increase this figure to 15 billion euros in 2012. France is Turkey's fourth biggest export market and French companies rank third in total foreign direct investment in Turkey. Some 400 French companies operate in Turkey, providing employment for 100,000 people.

[HH] Gadhafi must go

The two leaders have also discussed the Libyan crisis. Sarkozy called for an investigation and sanctions on the Libyan administration. He supported Gül’s proposal for humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people.

"Mr. Gadhafi must go," Sarkozy said. "The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions.”

Sarkozy said the recent crisis in the Middle East and North Africa caused his well-known project for the Mediterranean to come to surface. “It’s time to revisit our vision,” regarding the Med Union.

He called for a meeting at the EU Council to discuss the union’s relations with regional countries.

[HH] Sarkozy meets Erdoğan

Sarkozy’s last stop was the Prime Ministry. The two leaders made a brief statement to the press prior to the talks in which Sarkozy said he gave importance to the meeting. "Erdoğan is someone I know well, highly respect and admire."

"Turkey has an important place in the worldwide plan. Turkey's place and location can add a lot to the balance of the world. This is why I always give high importance to Turkey's contributions," he said.

The meeting was still ongoing as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to print late Friday. But Erdoğan said late Thursday that he would be very open in expressing his disappointment to Sarkozy.

In earlier remarks, Erdoğan said he would ask Sarkozy about the statements he made about Turkey’s membership bid.

“We warned Mr. Sarkozy many times about this issue. We told him his approach toward Turkey is very wrong. And I’ll ask him tomorrow [Friday],” Erdoğan told ATV television in an interview late Thursday. “I’ll tell him you made such a statement but that you tell different things to me.”

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