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AKP, CHP vow to bolster Turkey’s ties with EU, Washington April 27, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Turkey’s ruling party and main opposition both remain committed to the country’s European Union accession bid, but are divided over their reasons for seeking membership in the bloc, according to their respective electoral platforms.

For the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, joining the European Union is a “strategic goal,” the party said in the foreign-policy section of its platform released last week.

The AKP will continue to take the necessary steps to secure membership in the 27-member bloc “despite some European countries’ unfair and unfounded opposition,” the party said in its election document. It added that the government would continue to implement EU-mandated reforms “since [those reforms] benefit our citizens.”

After years of strained relations with its putative ideological brothers in Europe, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has promised greater cooperation with the EU’s social democratic parties on the way to Turkish membership.

“Turkey will pave the way for Turkish-EU relations, which have reached a bottleneck, through improved discourse with European social democrats,” the party said in its platform, which was also released last week ahead of the June 12 general election.

Ultimately, the goal of EU accession is “social transformation,” the CHP’s document said, adding that all social democrats should unite under the roof of the European Union.

Together with its “social democrat partners,” the CHP will convince European people that Turkey’s full membership in the bloc is the best way to prove false the supposed threat of a clash of civilizations, the party said in its document.

The main opposition devoted much of its foreign-policy section to Cyprus, condemning the AKP’s “economic threats” against northern Cyprus and “its remarks that hurt Turkish Cypriots,” referring to a spat earlier this year over demonstrations on the island protesting Ankara’s tight fiscal policy.

The CHP also said it would work to reduce current tensions between Turkey and the United States and define a new understanding in relations with Washington on the basis of “equality and mutual respect” that would be beneficial for both sides. Under former leader Deniz Baykal, the party had restricted dialogue with the United States.

For its part, the AKP said it would continue to improve and strengthen constructive and comprehensive relations with the United States, adding that boosting trade ties is one of its priorities.

No mention of Israel, progress on Armenia unlikely

Though the AKP has invested particular importance in Turkey’s growing relations with the Middle East, its campaign platform failed to mention Israel. Its relations with Ankara have been strained since Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year.

The CHP did not touch on relations with Israel in its platform either, but did say it would aim to improve economic relations and establish permanent ties with Muslim and Middle Eastern countries.

The CHP also said it wants to establish good neighborly relations with Armenia, but would maintain the country’s present course on the subject if Armenia blames Turkey with “unfair prejudices.” Armenia should also withdraw from Azerbaijani lands it has occupied since the 1990s, the main opposition’s platform said.

The AKP’s platform said Armenia’s “unconstructive approach” had prevented Turkey from achieving a desirable normalization of relations with the neighboring country.

“Our position with respect to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and genocide allegations is clear. The [AKP] will not allow any solution that is not based on fairness and justice to be imposed on Turkey. With regard to reciprocal and simultaneous steps for a solution, Turkey will not refrain from doing what it needs to do,” the document said.

Turkey and Armenia signed protocols in 2009 in Zurich to normalize bilateral relations after years of hostility due to the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and because of the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan, a traditional ally of Turkey, and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The process envisioned the opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia, but the countries’ respective parliaments have failed to ratify the protocols. Turkic Azerbaijan has been fiercely opposed to the process, arguing that Armenia must display a constructive position on Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks before Turkey can open its borders.

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