Ankara: French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Turkey on Friday it is unfit for EU membership, urging an alternative partnership for the mainly Muslim nation before its struggling accession talks hit a "deadlock”.
Sarkozy, a vocal opponent of Turkey`s EU bid, delivered the blunt message after talks with Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul during a brief visit to Ankara in his capacity as chairman of the G20 group of leading economies.
"Between accession and (special) partnership, which Turkey says it does not accept, there is a path of equilibrium that we can find," Sarkozy told a news conference.
"The best way of getting out of what risks to be a deadlock one day is to find a compromise.”
"We should not dramatise the things. ... This must not prevent us from working together," he said.
Gul however insisted that membership remained a priority for Turkey and urged France not to block the country`s accession talks, already under threat of grinding to a halt.
"We expect the entire EU to keep the promise they made ... and give us the opportunity to complete the process successfully," Gul said.
Ankara, he said, will respect the outcome of referendums that some EU countries, among them France, would hold on any eventual decision to admit Turkey, but he stressed that "artificial obstructions must not hinder" the talks by then.
Turkey and France have enjoyed close ties since Ottoman times, coupled with strong economic links, but relations took a downturn after Sarkozy became president in 2007 and raised vocal objections to Turkey`s EU accession.
Out of the 35 policy chapters that EU candidates must negotiate, Turkey has opened talks on only 13 since the accession negotiations began in 2005.
Eight chapters remain frozen as an EU sanction to Turkey`s refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels under a trade pact with the bloc, with France and Cyprus blocking several others.
If Turkey fails to open talks on a new chapter by July, it would make one year without progress.
Sarkozy says the mainly Muslim nation of some 73 million does not belong to Europe, and, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, advocates a special partnership for Turkey, an idea that Ankara flatly rejects.
Sarkozy also met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had voiced frustration over France`s objections ahead of Sarkozy`s arrival.
"We have cautioned Mr Sarkozy many times. ... We have told him that his attitude towards Turkey is very wrong," Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as saying.
"The EU needs Turkey and Turkey needs the EU. But if it is going to continue like this, then make a decision and announce `we are not taking Turkey in`. ... And then we will make the Copenhagen criteria the Ankara criteria ... and continue on our way," he said, referring to the EU political norms.
Erdogan suggested that opponents of Turkey`s EU membership "probably want us to quit the table but we are persevering not to do so”.
In an interview, he also voiced discontent that Sarkozy was visiting for only several hours and only as head of the G20 group, saying that "Turkey and Turkish-French ties deserve better than that."
Sarkozy said he and Gul also discussed issues related to the G20 group, to which Turkey belongs as the world`s 17th largest economy, stressing the need to regulate capital inflows and the prices of raw materials.
He pledged "limitmess cooperation" with Turkey on nuclear energy, in an apparent reference to Turkish projects to build the country`s first two nuclear power plants.
Sarkozy and Gul said they also discussed sweeping unrest in Arab countries sparked by protests demanding democratic reform.
The French President said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi "must go" and warned of "investigations and sanctions" over bloody crackdowns on protesters in the North African country.