TODAY.AZ / Politics

Council of Europe PA President backs Turkey's EU bid

26 October 2006 [23:17] - TODAY.AZ
The European Union and Turkey should work to resolve their differences because a possible disruption of Ankara's accession talks would be "in no one's interest," the president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly said in Ankara on Thursday.

"I belive that both the EU and Turkey have very important interests in this process," Rene van der Linden, a Dutch Christian Democrat, said in an interview with NTV television after talks with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

In comments on EU criticism that Turkey had alarmingly slackened its reform drive over the past year, Van der Linden urged Brussels to take into account that Ankara's progress, albeit slow, was "in the right direction."

"There should be a balanced approach... The EU should encourage Turkey's reforms so that Turkey can have confidence in this (accession) process," he said. "A disruption (in the talks) will be in no one's interest -- neither in the EU nor Turkey."

Van der Linden expressed hope that a row over Turkey's rejection to grant trade priviliges to Cyprus would be resolved and urged Ankara to make efforts to ensure freedom of expression.

He denounced a draft law voted at the lower chamber of the French parliament on October 12 that forsees a year in jail for anyone who denies that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians during World War I as a "contradiction" to European values of free speech.

But at the same time, he stressed, Ankara should ensure that those who say the genocide did happen are not prosecuted in Turkey.

A string of intellectuals, among them the winner of the 2006 Nobel Literature Prize, Orhan Pamuk, have been put on trial for "denigrating Turkishness" over remarks contesting the official line on the 1915-17 massacres, which Ankara fiercely denies constituted genocide.

The Council of Europe is not an EU institution, but it is also closely watching Turkey's respect for human rights.

The EU will issue on November 8 a crucial report on the country's progress towards membership, which will largely determine the future of its accession talks.

/www.turkishpress.com/

URL: http://www.today.az/news/politics/31843.html

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