'Turkey more influential globally than any of our members'

Finnish foreign minister highlights Europe's desire to cooperate with Ankara on foreign, security policy at meeting of EU foreign ministers.

eu flag 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
eu flag 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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."
RELATED:US military chief seeks Turkish support over IranOpinion: Turkey-Israel relations: Where do we stand?Government slams Ashton's 'meddling'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 decisions.
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.