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Germany brokers new terms for Turkey EU talks

26 June 2013

Germany has constructed a compromise deal that allows EU membership talks with Turkey to start up later this year. Turkey still lies in the wake of turbulence and social unrest initiated by the  violent intervention by Turkish police in response to a peace protest at Gezi Park in Istanbul, nearly one month ago.

However, other member states say the proposal may not be sufficient to break the deadlock over how to react to the Turkish government’s crackdown on largely peaceful domestic protests because it would delay the start of the talks for months.

Turkey itself, which is trying to avert the continuing decline in both the value of the lira and the stock market, has already indicated that it would respond negatively to a delay, leading some analysts to suggest that the country’s five-decade-old quest to deepen ties with the bloc may have reached the end of the road.

But on Monday night, as negotiations continued involving close contact between the German and Turkish foreign ministers, Ankara suggested that it could accept a delay as long as a formal decision to begin talks was taken this week.

In another sign of increased contact with foreign capitals in wake of the protests in Turkey, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, also had a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Monday night.

On Tuesday the Turkish lira firmed slightly from a record low against the dollar as investors awaited Treasury bond auctions and foreign exchange sales by the central bank later in the day.

Under the proposal put forward by Guido Westerwelle, German foreign minister, EU member states would decide in principle to open a new negotiating chapter with Ankara – the first for three years. But beginning the talks themselves would be subject to a further decision that would only be made after the European Commission publishes an annual report in the autumn on Turkey’s progress towards membership criteria.

“On the one hand we cannot act as if the discussions here were taking place in an airless room, and as if these last few days had not happened,” said Mr Westerwelle. “On the other hand we must also see that our common long-term strategic interests are protected.”

Mr Westerwelle, who unlike his coalition partner Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, favours Turkish membership, said it was necessary to find an acceptable solution, but was not yet sure if his proposal would be acceptable.

Mr Westerwelle put forward the proposal after meeting Ahmet Davutoglu, his Turkish counterpart, on the margins of a weekend meeting on Syria.

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