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French Version

EU no to Turkey will damage Arab reform

Any setback in Turkey's EU accession talks will likely damage the secular Muslim nation's chances to provide an example for reform in the Arab world.

Turkey's EU hopes hit their latest roadblock Monday when European leaders for the first time said they will drop all references to Turkey in their joint statement to close this week's summit meeting.

"Rejection from the EU would create massive problems for Turkey," a leading Turkish scholar told The Daily Star in a telephone interview. "What happens to the future of Westernization and reform would be in doubt."

Bulent Aliriza, director of the respected Turkish project at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned of a backlash against reform should the EU stop Turkey's accession process, which is set to begin October 3.

"There is a groundswell of sentiment in Turkey that the EU has been pushing Turkey too far on issues such as minority rights," Aliriza said. "The question arises whether the impetus for reform is just the EU process. There are serious doubts about what would happen on the reform front if accession comes to a halt."

Despite a recent warming of relations between Turkey and the U.S., Aliriza said Turkey had not decided to move closer to the United States because of growing fears of EU rejection.

"The U.S. is not an alternative to Europe," he said.

On a visit to Washington last week, U.S. President George W. Bush stressed that Turkey should be a model for democratization among Muslim countries. Aliriza said Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to visit Beirut on Thursday to attend the Arab Economic Forum, "wants to encourage democratic growth in the Middle East and promote Turkey as an intermediary because of its close ties to Washington and Brussels."

Turkey has shown willingness to work with Washington in the Middle East, with the two countries signing an agreement to work together to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Marseille,06 19 2005
The Daily Star
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