- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

ANKARA, Turkey (Agence France-Presse) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's new ruling party, left yesterday for three days of talks in Europe to promote Ankara's bid to join the European Union, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Mr. Erdogan's first stop was Berlin, for dinner with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
He was then to fly to London for talks this morning with Prime Minister Tony Blair and on to Brussels to meet European Commission President Romano Prodi.
Tomorrow, he is to visit Dublin and Strasbourg, France, where he is due to visit the speaker of the European Parliament, Pat Cox.
Mr. Erdogan, head of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP), is accompanied by newly appointed Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, his aides and representatives from nongovernmental organizations, Anatolia said.
The three-day trip is part of a larger tour of EU countries, which has already taken him to Italy, Greece and Spain, before the European Union's Dec. 12 summit meeting in Copenhagen on enlarging its membership.
Turkey wants EU leaders to give a firm date for starting its own accession talks next year, but the European bloc has so far snubbed Ankara's demand on the grounds that it had not yet fulfilled the necessary criteria.
Since his party's spectacular victory in the Nov. 3 elections, Mr. Erdogan has insisted that EU membership would be top priority for the government, which was approved by the president on Monday.
Mr. Erdogan has also sought to allay unease in Europe about an Islam-based party winning in Turkey.
The new government is headed by Mr. Erdogan's right-hand man and AKP deputy chairman, Abdullah Gul, because Mr. Erdogan is legally barred from the office due to a 1998 conviction for sedition.
On Monday during a visit to Athens, Mr. Erdogan ruled out a quick solution to the problems of Cyprus, the Mediterranean island partitioned between its Turkish and Greek inhabitants, saying: "There is not enough time between now and Dec. 12 to find a solution."
The EU summit that opens on that date in Denmark's capital is expected to formally invite 10 nations including Cyprus, but not Turkey to join the regional grouping.
Cyprus has been split since 1974 between the Greek-Cypriot republic and the smaller Turkish-Cypriot republic. Turkey seized the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-engineered coup that sought to unite it with Greece.
In a blow to Mr. Erdogan's ambitions, the European Commission on Monday rejected his call that Turkey and Cyprus join the European Union together under a U.N. plan to reunite the island.
Cyprus, or at least the Greek-Cypriot part of it, is among the 10 mostly ex-communist countries expected to be given the green light at the Copenhagen summit. They are expected to join in 2004.
Turkey is the only one of 13 EU candidates that has yet to be given a date to start membership talks. The EU has welcomed reforms made by Ankara, but says it must do more.


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