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Differences over Cyprus, identity make Turkey's EU membership a remote dream

07-16-2010 13:29 BJT

BEIJING, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Though EU officials have repeatedly assured Turkey over its bid to join the bloc, analysts believe some EU members' strong objection has made the Muslim-majority country's accession almost impossible in the foreseeable future.

During a Tuesday meeting in Istanbul, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton reiterated that the 27-member bloc has a "clear mandate" on Ankara's EU membership bid and called for accelerated negotiations.

The meeting rekindled hope for Turkey to join the EU more than two decades after Ankara requested for the EU membership in 1987.

However, bilateral talks have been slow since the EU opened accession talks with Turkey in 2005. Until now, both sides have completed negotiations on only one policy area out of a total 35 needed for an EU membership.

Mensur Akgun, director of Turkey's Global Politics Trend Research Center, attributed Ankara's failure to seek an EU membership to a combination of domestic politics and foreign policy factors.

"The Cyprus issue remains the biggest obstacle for Turkey to join the EU," Akgun said, referring to Ankara's dispute with Athens over the Cyprus issue.

Greece, an EU member, staunchly opposes Turkey's EU bid unless Turkey agreed to withdraw its 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus, which has been divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island in response to a Greece-backed coup.

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