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Turkish Opposition Criticizes EU Deal

The leader of Turkey's main opposition party is accusing the government of settling for second-class status within the European Union, EU. Republican People's Party leader Deniz Baykal was speaking a day after the European Union formally opened membership talks with Turkey.

Speaking before the Turkish parliament, Mr. Baykal harshly criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for accepting what he termed "second-class status" for Turkey.

Mr. Baykal said Turkey is faced with conditions that had not been imposed on any other EU candidate and argued that Turkey would never be permitted to join Europe. Mr. Baykal pointed to provisions within the EU negotiating framework document that sets out the details of Turkey's accession to the alliance.

The opposition leader referred in particular to a provision that allows the European Union to stop Turkish citizens from circulating freely within EU member countries.

The measure is meant to appease European fears about an influx of cheap laborers from Turkey.

The European Union agreed to open accession talks with Turkey in December, but there is mounting opposition within the bloc to Turkey's inclusion. Austria, where about 80 percent of the population is against Turkey, nearly derailed the talks that began only after hours of intense diplomacy.

Prime Minister Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkey will never accept anything short of full membership in the bloc.

He termed the EU decision to open talks Monday as a triumph for "the alliance of Muslim and Christian civilizations."

Mr. Erdogan denied accusations that Turkey had accepted any dishonorable conditions in pursuit of EU membership. But he acknowledged that the negotiations would be long and painful.

EU leaders say the talks will last at least a decade and will not necessarily result in full membership. Many Turks say the negotiating process, with its strong emphasis on human rights and the rule of law, will bolster Turkish democracy and is more important than actual membership.