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Merkel backs 'open-ended' Turkey's EU talks

Monday - 2/25/2013, 11:17am  ET

German chancellor Angela Merkel , third left, stands in front of an army vehicle, part of a Patriot surface-to-air missile system during her visit to Kahramanmaras, southeastern Turkey Sunday Feb. 24, 2013. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting German troops deployed to operate Patriot missile batteries in Turkey. The Patriots were sent to Turkey, a NATO member, to protect it from spillover from Syria's civil war. Merkel's two-day visit comes as Turkey grows increasingly frustrated over the slow progress in its bid for European Union membership. Before arriving Sunday, Merkel said she backs opening a new chapter in those stalled talks, despite being skeptical about Turkey's accession. The chancellor's first stop was Kahramanmaras, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border, where some 300 German troops are manning two out of six NATO-deployed anti-missile batteries. (AP Photo/dpa, Kay Nietfeld)

SUZAN FRASER
Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday the European Union should move forward with its talks with Turkey about joining the bloc, but that she remains skeptical about the nation becoming a full member.

Merkel was speaking at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a growing frustration in Turkey over the slow-moving membership talks and what Turkish officials say is reluctance by European nations to crack down on Turkish militants operating in their nations.

Merkel, who has long advocated a "privileged partnership" instead of EU membership for Turkey, said she remains skeptical about Ankara joining the 27-member bloc but said Germany nevertheless, wants the talks to move ahead.

"We want the process to advance, despite the fact that I have hesitations concerning Turkey's European Union full membership," Merkel said.

"We are conducting negotiations whose outcome is open-ended -- that is to say the results are not known," Merkel said. She was speaking in German and her words were translated into Turkish.

Turkey began EU accession negotiations in 2005, but has made little progress since then because of a dispute with EU-member Cyprus and opposition by some in Europe to admitting a populous Muslim nation into the bloc.

Turkey has concluded negotiations on only one out of some three-dozen policy areas, or chapters, with the EU. Eight policy issues have been frozen by the EU over Turkey's refusal to allow ships and planes from the divided island of Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace.

France, under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, held up Turkey's membership negotiations in five policy areas but has indicated recently that it may lift its opposition.

Merkel on Monday reiterated that she supports the opening of a new chapter in the stalled talks.

Erdogan has said in the past that Turkey -- a member of NATO and the Group of 20 and with one of the world's fastest growing economies -- might lose interest in becoming an EU member if it doesn't join by 2023 -- the centenary of the founding of the Turkish republic.

The Turkish prime minister has recently accused Germany and European nations of not responding to Turkish requests for the extradition of militants wanted by Turkey, including alleged members of the autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels.

"Germany will do its best in the struggle against terrorism -- against the PKK," Merkel said in reference to the Kurdish rebel group.


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