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Turkish President Begins Visit to Rome


Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Tuesday began a two-day official visit to Italy. He met with Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano, who said that a positive outcome of membership negotiations between the European Union and Turkey is in the interest of both. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Turkey's membership negotiations to join the European Union were the focus of talks between President Sezer and his Italian counterpart, Giorgio Napolitano. Their meeting came on the first day of an official visit by Mr. Sezer to Italy.

The Italian president said a positive outcome of membership negotiations between the European Union and Turkey is of strategic importance for the union because they involve reforming and reinforcing institutions to govern a larger union today and meet the challenges of tomorrow.

He added that these negotiations offer Ankara an incentive to consolidate reforms that have been already launched and adopt all the measures necessary to fully respect the union's rules so that it can meet the criteria required for membership.

Mr. Napolitano said Italy has always firmly supported Turkey's desire to join the EU and remains equally convinced that once it becomes a member, Ankara will give an essential contribution to expanding and consolidating a common area of democracy - respect for human dignity, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

The Turkish president thanked Napolitano for Italy's support and renewed his nation's commitment to meet EU membership requirements and make a further contribution to the political identity of Europe.

During their talks, the two presidents also agreed on the need for direct dialogue between all parties in the Middle East in order to find a just and lasting solution to the crisis.

The Turkish president is scheduled to meet with Italy's prime minister, Romano Prodi, on Wednesday. He will also be present for the opening, in the Italian presidential palace, of an exhibition there on 7,000 years of Turkish history.