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France, Germany want EU to set new Turkey deadline

Written by: Staff
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METTLACH, Germany, Dec 5 (Reuters) The leaders of France and Germany met today and plan to urge the European Union to set a new deadline for Turkey to come into line with the terms of its membership bid.

After the talks between the heads of the two EU heavyweights in Mettlach, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Jacques Chirac will meet Polish President Lech Kaczynski to try to woo him into the EU fold on a key issue for the bloc's future -- ties with energy giant Russia.

Not entirely satisfied with the European Commission proposal to partially suspend Ankara's EU entry negotiations over its failure to open its ports to Cyprus, a source in Chirac's office said Merkel and Chirac wanted a ''rendezvous clause'' that would effectively set a deadline for Turkey to comply with EU demands.

''The idea is to have a formal review ... so at a given moment we can see if Turkey has changed and whether we can take back that decision or ... toughen it,'' the source said.

In an interview with Reuters in Brussels, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn appealed to Merkel and Chirac not to press for a new deadline for Turkey to open its ports to Cyprus.

He said strict deadlines did not produce results and the Cyprus question was best solved by the United Nations.

EU foreign ministers are due to decide on Monday how hard to sanction Ankara for its failure to meet a treaty obligation to open its harbours and airports to traffic from EU member Cyprus, whose Greek Cypriot government it does not recognise.

French diplomatic sources told Reuters that Berlin and Paris were ''on the same page'' when it came to the issue of Turkey.

Chirac and Merkel will also discuss other issues, including the future of Airbus parent EADS, French officials said. A German government spokesman said yesterday talks over finding investors in EADS were not yet over.

POLISH-RUSSIAN TENSION After their informal bilateral meeting, Merkel and Chirac will be joined by Kaczynski to discuss Turkey and another of the 25-nation EU's most complicated and divisive issues -- relations with Russia, the bloc's single biggest oil and gas supplier.

''The meeting's top theme will be Russia and energy security,'' a senior Polish official told Reuters, adding that Warsaw wanted to win support against Russia. ''Kaczynski...plans to use that opportunity to win Germany and France as an ally.'' ''Poland is very interested in a common project to import oil from Kazakhstan. This issue should be discussed,'' he added.

The meeting takes place less than two weeks after Poland blocked talks on a new wide-ranging partnership pact between the EU and Russia, saying it wanted Moscow first to lift its ban on Polish meat imports.

Germany takes over the EU's rotating presidency from Finland in January and has vowed to rescue the Union's constitution from limbo and reach out to Russia.

But Merkel's plans are doomed without the support of Poland, which is suspicious of Russia and has had problems with Berlin, said Alexander Rahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Since joining the EU in 2004, Poland has had a series of battles with its partners, giving it a reputation in Brussels as a diplomatic ''troublemaker''.

REUTERS PDM KN1540

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