Germany: Hope to advance Turkish EU talks soon

BERLIN (AP) - Germany's foreign minister said Sunday he hopes that a new chapter in Turkey's stalled European Union membership talks can be opened in the coming weeks, but his Turkish counterpart suggested the EU should quickly do more to welcome Ankara.

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

"We want to overcome the standstill in the membership negotiations," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after meeting his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu. "This standstill is not in the interest of Turkey, and it is emphatically not in the interests of Europe either."

There is "a realistic chance" of opening another chapter in the negotiations under Ireland's EU presidency, which ends June 30, Westerwelle said. "That wouldn't be a breakthrough, but new movement - which should and must lead to more."

Turkey's entry talks cover 35 different areas, or chapters. Only 13 have been opened so far, and several areas have been frozen over Turkey's refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace.

Davutoglu made clear that Ankara would like to see more action from the EU soon.

"One flower alone isn't enough to declare that it's spring," he said. "One chapter alone won't be enough - all chapters should be opened as soon as possible, and the Cyprus problem should be overcome as soon as possible."

Germany itself remains a potential obstacle to Turkish EU membership. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative party have long advocated a vaguely defined "privileged partnership" instead of full membership, though Westerwelle's Free Democrats - her junior coalition partners- are less skeptical.

Merkel's government supports continuing the EU talks, but the chancellor has stressed that they are open-ended. She has advocated opening another chapter in the negotiations, without specifying when.