- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey yesterday girded for a showdown with the European Union as anger and frustration simmered over what Turks see as European backpedaling on pledges to admit the Muslim country to the bloc.

With just three days left before the start of membership talks, EU countries were still wrangling over accession terms for Turkey, leaving Ankara on edge and its decades-old dream of integrating with Europe shrouded in uncertainty.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said he would not go to Luxembourg for the start of the talks Monday if Ankara is dissatisfied with the EU’s conditions.

“Undoubtedly, there is the risk of not starting membership talks,” Mr. Gul conceded late Thursday. “We are facing serious problems.”

In an 11th-hour bid for a breakthrough, the EU will hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers tomorrow to seek a compromise on a negotiating framework — the guiding procedures and principles for the talks with Turkey.

The deadlock is blamed on Austria’s insistence to offer Turkey “privileged partnership” as an alternative to full membership, an option Ankara flatly rejects.

Mr. Gul said he would not board the plane for Luxembourg before seeing the final document, but remained hopeful of a compromise despite the time pressure.

Turkey has been trying to join the EU since the 1960s, but its place in Europe has come increasingly into question, especially since French and Dutch voters rejected a planned EU constitution, partly over concerns about the membership of this sizeable and relatively poor Muslim country.

The European Parliament fueled angry accusations that the admission bar is being deliberately raised for Turkey when it urged Ankara earlier this week to acknowledge that the Ottoman Empire — predecessor of the Turkish Republic — committed “genocide” against Armenians in World War I, as a condition for joining.

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