- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

ANKARA, Turkey Turkish officials, angry at the obstacles blocking their entry into the European Union, nurse a deep bitterness at what they see as a lack of gratitude for their contributions to European security during the Cold War.

At the same time, they dream of a day when their accession to the EU changes the essential character of Europe and turns it into a "Christian-Islamic federation" echoing back to the days of Alexander the Great.

While acknowledging Turkey must improve its record on human rights and the treatment of its Kurdish minority, several officials insisted in interviews that it is past time for the West to repay its debt to a loyal friend.

"Turkey was an indispensable ally to Western Europe and the U.S. during the Cold War," said Kamran Inan, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Turkish parliament.

"Turkey joined NATO at its founding in 1949. We carried a disproportionate burden when Stalinism threatened the West, for we maintained the second-largest army in NATO, second only to the United States.

"We were humiliated when Poland, a former communist stooge of the Stalinists, was given priority over Turkey in the accession to the EU."

Haluk Ilicak, head of the EU Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out that Muslim Turkey backed Western policies by refraining from arming its "Muslim co-religionists" during conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

What's more, he said, it was a full partner in the Persian Gulf war against a Muslim neighbor, Iraq.

"Incerlik, a Turkish air base, was used by U.S. planes in the bombardment of Iraq. Until recently, Turkey abided by the U.S.-U.N. embargo of Iraq. It is our turn to be rewarded," he said.

Turkey has been pushed onto a slow track for entry into the European Union, behind many countries of the former Soviet bloc, ostensibly because of its human rights record and its conflict with Greece, an EU member, over the division of Cyprus.

But there are also fears in some European countries, especially Germany, that EU membership would bring a flood of guest workers that would undermine their economies.

Turkish officials repeatedly voice suspicions of another reason for their problems: discrimination by white, Christian Europeans against predominantly Muslim Turkey.

"Basically, Christian Europe is prejudiced against Islamic Turkey, but it is necessary to separate culture and religion," Mr. Inan said. "Europe still has a crusader image of Turkey."

Feredun Sinirlioglu, the deputy director-general of the Middle East Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed similar concerns.

"We are already a functioning member of many European institutions," he said, noting that Turkey was a founding member of the Council of Europe and belongs to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Culturally Turkey is part of the West, but in matters of religion we are Islamic."

Turks point out that Europe was united with Asia Minor for 1,000 years after the armies of Alexander the Great unified Greece and what is now Turkey in the fourth century B.C.

Those lands remained united under the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire until the Muslim Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople now Istanbul in 1453.

In the 20th century, Turkey once again looked to Europe.

"The Westernization of our country has been the driving principle of our history" since the modern Republic of Turkey was founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923, said Mr. Ilicak.

"The cultural differences between Sicily and Sweden are greater than the cultural differences between Turkey and Sweden."

Mr. Ilicak said Turkey is on a schedule to enter the EU in about 10 years, a step that will redefine Europe.

"From the time that Christianity spread to Europe across Asia Minor, Europe was defined in terms of Christianity, but the accession of Turkey will render this definition outmoded, and Europe will be rethought as a Christian-Islamic federation," he said.

"The heroic accomplishments of Alexander the Great will be resurrected; only this time through a peaceful and legal evolution, the reunification of Euro-Asia Minor."

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