German Chancellor backs 'open-ended' Turkey's EU talks

ANKARA (AP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday the European Union should move forward with its talks with Turkey about joining the bloc, but that she remains skeptical about the nation becoming a full member.

Dr Merkel was speaking at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a growing frustration in Turkey over the slow-moving membership talks and what Turkish officials say is reluctance by European nations to crack down on Turkish militants operating in their nations.

Dr Merkel, who has long advocated a "privileged partnership" instead of EU membership for Turkey, said she remains skeptical about Ankara joining the 27-member bloc but said Germany nevertheless, wants the talks to move ahead.

"We want the process to advance, despite the fact that I have hesitations concerning Turkey's European Union full membership," Dr Merkel said.

"We are conducting negotiations whose outcome is open-ended - that is to say the results are not known," Dr Merkel said. She was speaking in German and her words were translated into Turkish.

Turkey began EU accession negotiations in 2005, but has made little progress since then because of a dispute with EU-member Cyprus and opposition by some in Europe to admitting a populous Muslim nation into the bloc.

Mr Erdogan has said in the past that Turkey - a member of NATO and the Group of 20 and with one of the world's fastest growing economies - might lose interest in becoming an EU member if it doesn't join by 2023 - the centenary of the founding of the Turkish republic.