Recent election defeats for opponents of Turkey's bid for EU membership offer a chance to unfreeze negotiations, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Turkey on Tuesday.
“After the latest elections we have the chance, but we also have the challenge, to overcome this frozen situation,” Westerwelle said at a forum hosted by the Sabancı University İstanbul Policy Group.
Westerwelle, member of a junior partner in the coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, an opponent of Turkish membership in the EU, did not specify to which elections he was referring to. But he spoke on the same day that Socialist Francois Hollande took over the French presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the most vocal opponents of Turkish EU membership.
On Sunday, Merkel's conservative party also lost an election in Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, just 18 months before a national poll.
Westerwelle urged Ankara to continue to press its bid to join the EU despite Turkey's objections to Greek Cyprus holding the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency for the second half of 2012. Having opened formal entry negotiations in 2005, the process has ground to a virtual standstill in recent years due to the intractable dispute over the divided island of Cyprus, and opposition to Turkish membership among core EU members, France and Germany.
Turkey has said it will suspend relations with the EU presidency during Greek Cyprus's six-month tenure, due to a lack of progress in reunification talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, who govern Cyprus. Westerwelle has implored all sides not to squander the chance to get talks back on track by allowing emotive issues to block progress when Greek Cyprus takes over the EU presidency.
“We should be very careful that -- in the second half of this year Greek Cyprus has the EU presidency -- we should not freeze once again the negotiations and what is possible and necessary for a constructive dialogue,” Westerwelle said. “We should all deal in a very sensitive way with this situation. So let us be wise and not only emotional. Let us see our goal at the horizon and this is what counts.”