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Turkish Foreign Minister Reaffirms Country Will Press Reforms for EU Membership

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Wednesday his country will work to meet "all criteria" set by the European Union. He spoke in Rome after an EU report was released saying Turkey must do more to prevent torture and protect freedom of expression.

The Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, left no doubts about Turkey's commitment to reform.

Gul acknowledged that Turkey still had to make some changes to meet goals set by the EU and said negotiations would be difficult, but in the end, he said, positive results would be achieved.

The foreign minister was speaking following the release in Brussels by the European Commission of a progress report on Turkey's EU membership.

In the progress report, the European Commission criticized Ankara's human rights record and lack of political reforms. It threatened to recommend freezing EU entry talks unless Turkey does more to prevent torture and protect freedom of expression.

The report also cited concern about women and trade union rights, civilian control over the military and the rights and freedoms of the Kurdish population.

The Dutch member of the European parliament, Camiel Eurling, who wrote the report on Turkey's accession to the EU, explained the Commission's position.

"We really need to see a Turkey that continues to reform on its road to the European Union," he said. "I always say if Turkey becomes a country that is as free as the Netherlands, Belgium or France, that has really the freedoms, that is good to its minorities, that has women's rights on a European level, it will not just be a Turkey that is much better for its citizens, it will also be a Turkey that will be much better and easier to accept by the citizens of the European Union than the Turkey of today where Christian minorities have problems, where women do not have the same rights and where the army has way too strong a position."

The European Commission said Wednesday it had decided against recommending the immediate suspension of membership talks with Turkey.

But it said Turkey must implement a customs pact with EU member Cyprus by mid-December. The European Commission wants Turkey to open its ports and airports to Cypriot goods before a key EU leaders' summit in the middle of December.