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    Gul: Turkey has embarked on a new era

    Hürriyet Haber
    04.10.2005 - 10:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    A smiling Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, arrived in Luxembourg late last night for the opening ceremony that signaled Turkey has officially begun membership talks with the European Union. A warm welcome was extended to the Turkish foreign minister by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who was pictured embracing Mr Gul. Moments before his departure from Ankara Gul told reporters that an "historic point has been reached today", adding that Turkey "has embarked on a new era".

    Arriving in Luxembourg Gul said, "This is a win-win situation and the world will also win." Hopes that the union between Turkey – a majority Muslim state – and the mostly Christian European bloc will move the world into a new era and bridge the gaps that exists between the West and the Middle East. The move is also hoped to send a blow to militant Islamist groups such as al-Qeada.

    The agreement was reached after a lengthy meeting of Europe's foreign ministers, and at some stage looked in trouble after all talks failed as Austria demanded that Turkey be offered a partial or special membership.

    Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik said her country was "listening to the people" by questioning full membership for Turkey. "There are moments when we have to say that such fundamental things are at stake that a compromise is not possible," she warned.

    However, Austria backed down following a series of meetings between the Austrian Foreign Minister and Jack Straw, and an agreement was finally reached.

    The road ahead is not an easy one, it could take up to two decades for Turkey to enter the union as a full member and there are still clauses that can be enacted to stop Turkey. France and Austria have both promised their voters final say on the Turkish membership.

    Croatia – a close ally to Austria – has found a deal to begin stalled entry talks after the U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte declared that Croatia was now fully cooperating with her tribunal.

    At the last minute, the US stepped in to help with the negotiations when Ankara became concerned over a clause that might compromise Turkey's ability to keep EU nation Cyprus out of NATO.

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