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News Analysis: French-Turkish cozying-up likely to take time

English.news.cn   2014-01-28 12:07:34

Turkish President Abdullah Gul (R) holds talks with visiting French President Francois Hollande in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 27, 2014. Hollande said on Monday his government is willing to help Turkey advance its membership bid with the EU, pledging to support the opening of new negotiation chapters between the two sides. Hollande paid the first official visit to Turkey by a French head of state in 22 years, with seven ministers accompanying him aiming to boost economic ties with Ankara. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)

ANKARA, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- French President Francois Hollande's visit to Turkey, the first by a French head of state in 22 years, is not expected to make a breakthrough in bilateral relations overnight, Turkish analysts say.

"I believe both sides are testing each other to determine how much a wiggle room they have to move beyond already good economic ties," Mesut Cevikalp, an Ankara-based foreign policy analyst, told Xinhua on Monday.

"Both sides show a desire to promote their stalled ties, yet they have to act carefully in order to not disturb domestic sensitivities," he added.

In fact, during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, Hollande underlined bilateral differences regarding Turkey's European Union (EU) membership talks as well as the mass killings of Armenians during the Ottoman rule.

"Negotiations do not entail membership; the issue of membership will be decided upon at a referendum," Hollande said.

"But this should not stop us from proceeding with talks chapter by chapter," he quickly added.

In response, the Turkish president said Ankara does not want to see any more obstacles being raised in Europe on its path toward accession.

The problem, however, is that Turkey finds its accession push impeded because most of the 35 negotiating chapters it needs to conclude before being considered for full membership are blocked by France and Cyprus.

Hollande's predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, blocked five negotiation chapters of Turkey's EU membership talks, straining relations between the two countries.

There are still four other chapters that France maintains its veto, respectively on agriculture and rural development, economic and monetary policy, financial and budgetary provisions, and institutions.

Hollande did not indicate whether France is willing to lift its veto on the blocked chapters during talks with his Turkish counterpart. But he stressed that his government supports continuing the negotiation process.

OVERSHADOWED BY CORRUPTION SCANDAL

The timing of Hollande's visit was not good either, according to Turkish analysts.

"He could not come at a worse time as Turkey's democratic credentials are now being openly questioned by the European Union in the wake of massive corruption scandals," said Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center.

"He had to be very careful in his remarks lest he could have given an impression that France did not care much about the rule of law in Turkey," he added.

It was unfortunate that Hollande's long-awaited visit came amid a corruption scandal that shook the Turkish government and led to questions of whether the rule of law, separation of powers and democracy are settled firmly in the EU candidate country.

The Turkish government has reacted very harshly. Since corruption investigation started on Dec. 17, it has reassigned thousands of police officers and over hundreds of judges and prosecutors in what opposition claimed as an effort to cover up corruption allegations.

A number of EU officials have criticized Turkey on what they see as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to control the judiciary.

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Editor: Zhu Ningzhu
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