(scottsman.com)–German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has assured Turkey that membership negotiations with the European Union will start as scheduled on October 3–but has warned it must not go back on reforms–according to an interview published in a Turkish newspaper today.
Schroeder–who has long backed Turkey’s bid to join the bloc–was speaking ahead of his trip to Turkey–which begins on Tuesday.
There have been concerns that a recent slowdown in the pace of Turkish reforms might derail the talks.
"It’s important to continue on the path that has been chosen. Reforms–especially in terms of basic freedoms and human and minority rights–need to be implemented and it needs to be made sure there’s no going back on the reforms. For this–as Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has said–there needs to be a change in mentality. This won’t be possible overnight," Schroeder was quoted as saying.
"The negotiations will start on October 3. The conditions that Turkey must fulfil are known. The negotiations will definitely be long and difficult. The progress that Turkey makes in the reform process will determine to a large extent the progress it makes in the negotiations."
At a December European Union summit–the bloc agreed to open membership talks with Turkey. But it must sign a customs agreement that would mean de facto recognition of the government of Cyprus–a step it has been hesitant to take.
Schroeder said a recent call by Erdogan to establish political relations with Armenia while jointly researching the killings of Armenia’s during the First World War is "a step in the right direction."
Armenia has rejected the proposal–saying that the Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turkey is a substantiated fact.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian criticized on April 29–Turkey’s continued insistence that scholars from both countries establish a joint commission to determine whether the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenia’s in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 constituted genocide
Erdogan proposed such a commission to President Robert Kocharian last month as a precondition for establishing formal diplomatic relations–but Kocharian rejected it–calling instead for establishing diplomatic relations with no preconditions. Gasparian implied that Turkey was resorting to "excuses," and has no real desire to normalize relations with Armenia.