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EU Partially Suspends Membership Talks With Turkey


The European Union's executive body recommended Wednesday that it suspend part of its EU membership talks with Turkey. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris for VOA about what this means.

In a statement published Wednesday, the European Commission recommended the European Union freeze areas of its negotiations with Turkey that touch on Ankara's relations with Cyprus. Turkey and the EU are deadlocked over Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to the Mediterranean island, which is an EU member.

European Union member nations were quick to respond.

Prime Minister Tony Blair called the decision a "serious mistake" to send Turkey a negative message on membership now, and Spain's Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero urged leaders to "work intensively" to keep the EU's doors open to Ankara.

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, said he would support a partial suspension of talks, saying Ankara has not fulfilled obligations.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan says the call for partial suspension of EU membership talks is "unacceptable,"

EU foreign ministers are expected to announce whether they will follow the commission's recommendation when they meet December 11.

Analysts have been predicting negotiations with Ankara might be suspended or slowed down. So those like Philippe Moreau de Farges, of the French Institute for International Relations, aren't really surprised.

"There was a honeymoon between Turkey and the European Union and now the honeymoon has turned sour," he said. "Its happened in many couples, in many relations. Its clear that we are at the beginning of a very difficult period."

Moreau de Farges says that Cyprus is only one factor in a larger misunderstanding. The bottom line, he says, is that Turkey believes it has the right to join the EU - and the EU doesn't know what it wants.

The council's recommendation comes a day after Pope Benedict XVI backed Ankara's bid to join during his ongoing visit in Turkey. But Moreau de Farges doubts the pope's remarks will make much difference in changing European opinion.

"What has been said by the pope is important. We must listen to what is said by the pope - but its only one important person," he said.

Even in predominately Roman Catholic countries like Italy, Moreau de Farges notes, Vatican dictates don't carry much weight.

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