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Solana Upbeat on EU Accession Talks with Turkey


The European Union (EU) is debating the future of its enlargement policy, as it welcomes Romania and Bulgaria as its newest members January 1. But the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, tells Teri Schultz about another candidate that has to wait.

Turkey's road to membership in the European Union has already stretched out 14 months and the EU has decided the pace will become even slower due to Turkey's refusal to conduct trade with EU member Cyprus.

The decision made by EU foreign ministers on Monday and formalized by heads of state Thursday suspends membership negotiations in eight policy areas until Turkey opens its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.

The decision has been met with disappointment and anger in Turkey, but Solana cautions the Turks not to be discouraged by a short-term setback.

"This should not be taken as punishment or anything like that," he said. "It is just a manner of response to [a] lack of cooperation in a complicated situation."

The situation became even more complicated a week ago when Turkey made a surprise offer to open one port and one airport to Cyprus in a bid to avoid the partial freeze. But current EU president - Finland - ruled the offer was not sufficient when Ankara refused to put the terms down in writing or confirm there were no conditions attached.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers voted to suspend eight of 35 areas of negotiation, effectively freezing the process.

Reports from Turkey suggest Ankara may reconsider its candidacy altogether, but Solana predicts that will not happen.

"I don't think Turkey will walk away," he said. "I have been in touch with the leaders of Turkey; I think they are not happy, but to a certain extent they understand that the important thing is to continue."

That is more optimism than Solana has regarding one of his other priorities - Iran.

With the United Nations Security Council close to approving a resolution mandating sanctions against Tehran for pursuing a nuclear program, Solana says he hopes Iranian leaders will decide that negotiations are a better alternative than international penalties.