Ricciardone: US to continue supporting Turkey’s EU bid

January 17, 2014, Friday/ 19:09:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The United States has been a supporter of Turkey's efforts to join the European and will continue to back the accession process, the US envoy in Ankara said on Friday following talks with Turkey's EU affairs minister and the chief negotiator for EU talks, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

“We believe in Turkey's future with the EU,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone was quoted as saying during a visit to Çavuşoğlu at his office. “I am optimistic about the [membership] process.”

Çavuşoğlu said the United States was not only the most important ally of Turkey but also a strong supporter of Turkish accession into the EU. “We have no doubt that the United States will continue to support Turkish integration with Europe as it has done so far,” he told reporters.

Ricciardone's visit to Çavuşoğlu, which the US envoy said was a courtesy one to congratulate Çavuşoğlu on his recent appointment as the EU affairs minister, came amid concerns over the fate of Turkey's eu bid stemming from a number of EU statements criticizing government moves to reassign thousands of police officers and restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in the wake of a wave of detentions as part of a corruption probe.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to meet with EU officials during a visit to Brussels early next week, which appears set to be overshadowed by tensions over the corruption probe.

In a statement released earlier this week, the office of EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said Füle had urged Turkey to address corruption claims in a transparent and impartial manner during a meeting with Çavuşoğlu in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Füle, according to the statement, expressed the bloc's “expectation that any change to the judicial system must not call into question Turkey's commitment as regards the Copenhagen political criteria.”

“Commissioner Füle asked Çavuşoğlu to convey this message to Ankara,” the statement said.

Commenting on Füle's statement, Çavuşoğlu dismissed earlier on Friday comments that it amounted to an “ultimatum” for Turkey. “There might be misleading interpretations based on inaccurate information, but we are discussing these issues with our European counterparts in our direct contacts and in a constructive way,” he said as he received a delegation of Turkey-EU Joint Consultative Committee, comprising of representatives from Turkish and European business and civil society groups.

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