BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers met Saturday to discuss their vexed relationship with Turkey, a nation that is becoming a key player on the global stage even as talks to join the bloc languish.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the talks at a palace in Brussels aim to recognize that even though Turkey has not joined the EU, it already is "a partner with us in lots of issues around the world."
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Negotiations for Turkey to join the 27-nation EU have made little progress since starting in 2005, with France and Germany both expressing opposition to Turkey's bid. Ankara's relationship with the divided island of Cyprus, an EU member, is a key stumbling block.
Even as the accession process drags on, the bloc is keen to work with Turkey on issues like the Mideast peace process, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Bosnia, where Ankara wields influence.
Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb called Turkey "one of the top five countries in the world today" in terms of foreign policy.
"Arguably, today Turkey is more influential in the world than any of our
member states together or separately," Stubb said. "It has a great
influence in the Middle East, in the African Horn in the Persian Gulf,
in Iran. It's a truly global player and we need to work together with
Turkey right now on foreign and security policy."
Saturday's talks, preceded by a working breakfast with nations bidding
to join the EU, were informal and would not produce any solid policy
Ashton, who held talks with Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Friday night, called the discussions a chance to "chew over" the
relationship between the EU and Turkey.
The talks will "take us further in thinking about how do we collaborate
with Turkey," Ashton said.