- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — International pressures are growing on Turkey to clean up its scandal-ridden politics before it starts talks on accession to the European Union.

In diplomatic notes and publicized statements, EU officials and members of several governments also criticized the military elite’s interference in politics as well as Turkey’s refusal to admit the World War I massacres of Armenians.

Diplomats say Turkey has shown no indications it is taking the warnings seriously. The accession talks are scheduled to start in October, and EU officials expect the process to last for up to 10 years.

European politicians hostile to Turkey’s accession say that unless Ankara complies with EU requirements, its application will be delayed further. Although only 5 percent of its territory is on the European continent, modern Turkey has been knocking on Europe’s doors for about 40 years.

EU chanceries were alarmed in recent weeks after Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, chief of the Turkish General Staff, warned that Turkey had no intention of withdrawing its troops from Northern Cyprus nor to taking responsibility for the Armenian genocide.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, apparently to compensate for his government’s difficulties at home, has been concentrating on foreign policy issues. During last week’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, he promised “action” to advance the peace process in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s response was cool. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Turkey could become “an honest broker” because of its good relations with both sides.

Diplomats said Israel is wary of any Turkish economic role in the West Bank. That is presumably why Mr. Erdogan did not offer the Palestinians any economic assistance, as initially expected.

Although Mr. Erdogan was swept to power 2 years ago with a promise to “cut the abscess of corruption,” there are no signs that the situation has improved.

“Somehow, the cleansing never comes,” said Turkish commentator Burak Bekdil.

He and other Turkish observers point to persistent nepotism. Officials from Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party have demanded and obtained appointments in key government and industrial posts.

The Turkish press reported that Mr. Erdogan’s finance minister, Kemal Unakitan, was prosecuted for fraud until he was given parliamentary immunity.

Textile firm Motif Tekstil AZ has disappeared, owing the government more than $2 million in electricity bills. Newspaper reports said no legal action was taken because of the company’s political connections.

Several Turkish newspapers also reported that Mr. Erdogan’s children are studying in the United States on a grant from a Turkish tycoon with government contracts.

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