Visiting British PM Cemeron pledges passionate fight for Turkey's EU bid
British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday voiced strong support for Turkey's membership in the European Union, vowing he would passionately fight to make the country's case. "I'm here to make the case for Turkey's membership in the EU. And to fight for it," Cameron told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. The British leader's landmark visit comes just three months after he took power. Cameron and Erdogan signed an updated version of the strategic partnership document, which was first concluded during the Turkish leader's visit to Britain in 2007. In his speech, Cameron drew a parallel in terms of the EU's treatment of his country in the past and to Turkey now. "Do you know who said: 'Here is a country that is not European... its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people – admirable people though they are – all point in a different direction… This is a country which… cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even believes, be a full member', " the British leader asked. "It might sound like some Europeans describing Turkey. But it was actually Gen. Charles de Gaulle describing the UK before vetoing our EU accession." He added, "We know what it's like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change." The visiting prime minister said he would remain Turkey's strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. "This is something I feel very passionately about… Together, I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels," he said. Cameron made it clear that Turkey cannot be allowed to remain outside the EU. "When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally, and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies, it makes me angry that your progress toward EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been," he said. "My view is clear. I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent." Cameron said those who oppose Turkey's EU membership fall into three groups as follows: "First, the protectionists: They see the rise of a country like Turkey as an economic threat we must defend against – not an opportunity to further our prosperity. Second, the polarized: They see the history of the world through the prism of a clash of civilizations. Third, the prejudiced: Those who willfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists." Cameron called all those arguments patently wrong. "And as a new government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them," he said. Dismissing objections to Turkish membership based on religion, he stressed that Turkey is a secular, democratic state. "This is all the more reason to make Turkey feel welcome in Europe," he said. "I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organization. And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none." Cameron called on Turkey to press for reforms needed to join the EU. "I'm not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture," he said. "We want you to be Turkey – because it's as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens. But we want you to push forward aggressively with the EU reforms you're making."