Gul to Sarkozy: "Turkey's membership won't burden the EU, but make it stronger"
At the Cankaya Presidential Palace yesterday, President Abdullah Gul received French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in Ankara to lay the groundwork for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned Turkey visit early next year. Gul used the occasion to convey a message to his French counterpart, known for his staunch opposition to Turkey's European Union accession bid. "I hope you had the opportunity to see for yourself how Turkey won't put a burden on the shoulders of the EU but on the contrary make it stronger," Gul told Kouchner. Reiterating Turkey's determination to join the 27-member bloc, Gul said, "Claims that Turkey's membership will place an additional burden on the EU don't reflect the truth. On the contrary, Turkey's accession will make the Union stronger and add to its dynamism." Nobody has the right to disrupt relations between Turkey and the EU for the sake of a country, Gul said, referring to the Greek Cypriot administration. Stating that Turkey now wields stronger influence in such regions as the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Africa, Gul said, "These are also important areas for France. We can cooperate on various projects in these regions." Recognizing Turkey's rising international clout, Kouchner, for his part, said, "We've been closely following Turkey's active foreign policy of recent years. Wherever we go, we find the Turkish presence there." Speaking to reporters after talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Kouchner said Sarkozy is scheduled to visit Turkey next January after France takes over the term presidencies of the G-20 and G-8. For his part, Davutoglu said political consultations between the two countries will gain momentum in the months to come, adding that a diplomatic exchange program will also start. Kouchner also pledged stronger cooperation with Turkey's fight against the terrorist PKK, saying that 28 members of the group are currently in jail in France, and cited a recent visit to Paris by Turkish intelligence head Hakan Fidan. "Some give the impression that Turkey and France don't get along, but the opposite is true," he said. "Our countries enjoy very good relations. However, we also have some EU-related problems that should be sorted out." At the dedication later of a new wing of Ankara's Charles de Gaulle high school, Kouchner said in Turkish, "Turkey and France are two countries which are great friends. We share a common future."