PARIS (AP/Zaman)–Turkey’s aspirations to be the first Muslim-majority member of the European Union took a hit Thursday when French President Jacques Chirac said Ankara most likely will not meet the bloc’s conditions for another 10-15 years.
Speaking at his first full-fledged news conference in six years–Chirac also said the upcoming transfer of power in Iraq must be "unambiguous" and the US-led occupation authorities must cede complete control to an Iraqi administration.
The French president said Turkey needed to improve its human rights record and reform its justice system before being considered for EU membership.
"Is Turkey’s entry possible today? I say ‘No,’" he said.
But Turkey could become a member "in the perspective of 10-to-15 years," Chirac said. "My conviction is that it is in the long term."
Asked whether the recognition of the Armenian genocide would be taken as a precondition for Turkey’s EU membership–Chirac said it was an issue between Turkey and Armenia.
Turkey–located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and a part of NATO since 1952–is hoping to begin talks next year on joining the EU. Ten new members are joining the 15-nation union on Saturday.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that Turkey accepted Chirac’s commen’s but still hoped the EU would open membership talks in 2005.
"Negotiations are one thing–and membership is another," the official said. "Chirac was speaking about the long term. There’s nothing new about what he said."
Chirac’s news conference came weeks after Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told parliament that France would oppose Turkey’s entry.
The European Commission in November noted Turkey’s "significant progress" in meeting the EU’s conditions–but said more needed to be done.