Obama prods Europeans to accept Turkey as member
US President Barack Obama yesterday made a cautious appeal to the European Union to accept Turkey as a member, warning that Turkey could end up seeking alliances outside the West if the EU keeps it dangling over its bid for membership. "Although we are not EU members, we have said as a matter of opinion that we think it would be wise for the EU to accept Turkey," Obama said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera. Obama said he did not believe the slow pace of EU accession or backtracking in the membership process is the "sole contributor or even a predominant contributor in some of the changed orientation that we've seen in Turkey." He added, "But it is inevitably destined to play a role in how the Turkish people see Europe. If they do not feel themselves part of the European family, it is natural that they should end up looking elsewhere for alliances and affiliations." He said that some of the change "has to do with their (Turkish) democracy operating and reflecting changing attitudes within Turkey." Separately, Obama repeated the US unease over Turkey voting against new UN sanctions on Iran, saying Turkey's "attempt to deal with Iran on the nuclear issue" was "unfortunate." But he added: "I think some of that was also guided by the fact that they have a long border with Iran, and they don't want any kind of conflict in that region. Some of it has to do with them flexing their muscles. I think the most important thing we can do with Turkey is to continue to engage, continue to hold out the advantages for them of integration with the West, while still respecting their own unique qualities and not acting fearful about the fact that they are Muslim."