Sarkozy Seeks Middle Way on Turkey EU Bid; Gul Wants Pledge Kept

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he’s seeking how to increase Turkish integration into Europe without letting it join the European Union as his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, insisted on his country’s right to membership.

“We tried to understand one another’s red lines,” Sarkozy said at a joint press conference in Ankara today. “We tried to find future paths that would lead neither to Europe’s destabilization nor to the humiliation of Turkish society, which is on its way to modernization,” he said.

Sarkozy spent six hours visiting the Turkish capital, holding separate talks with Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Opposition to Turkish membership from EU members also including Austria and Germany and a standoff with Cyprus have limited the country’s progress toward joining the bloc since it started entry talks in 2005.

“We expect the word that was given to be respected,” Gul said at the press conference, referring to the pledge to hold entry talks. He called EU membership “the most sensitive issue” in his country and blamed European governments for “artificially” slowing talks.

Since his 2007 election, Sarkozy has said repeatedly that Turkey should drop its efforts to join the EU and accept the status of a “privileged partner” instead. Today he said that he had to take into account French public opinion.

“Between full membership and a simple association, which the Turkish people have already said they refuse, there is a balance that we can find, if we look at this issue in a serene and forward-looking way,” Sarkozy said.

“We’ve told him this approach to Turkey is completely mistaken,” Erdogan said in a televised interview in Ankara late yesterday, according to state-run news agency Anatolia.

The situation in Europe is “complicated enough” without the debate over Turkish membership, Sarkozy said in Ankara.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Ankara, Turkey, at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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