Those blocking Turkey's accession to the European Union should contemplate its economic boom and ties to the Arab world, its chief negotiator said Tuesday, insisting that his country's determination to join the bloc has not wavered dpa reported
"We have plenty of determination and patience," Turkey's minister for EU affairs, Egemen Bagis, said at a briefing in Brussels hosted by the European Policy Centre think-tank.
"Every day that is passing by, Turkey's need for the EU is diminishing and the EU's need for Turkey is increasing," he added.
The country has enjoyed economic growth while the EU struggles to ward off another recession amid a debt crisis threatening its common currency. Turkish diplomats also played a prominent role when many of the country's Arab neighbours were swept by a wave of pro-democracy protests.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "the only leader who can pray with them (Arab leaders) and then talk to them about democracy and secularism," Bagis argued.
"Turkey is a source of inspiration today for millions of people," he added. "Europe needs that bridge more than ever."
Turkey's EU accession bid has, however, seen no progress for more than a year, amid Franco-German opposition to its membership and deepening tensions with Cyprus - which is due to take over the EU's rotating presidency in July.
Cyprus has been divided into two separate territories since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island following a coup by right-wing Cypriot army officers.
Turkish Cyprus, which covers around a third of the Mediterranean island, is recognized only by Turkey.
It has threatened to break off relations with the EU once the Republic of Cyprus takes over the presidency next year.
"We have taken so many steps, shown so many gestures on the Cyprus issue. Unfortunately, there is this spoiled attitude (on the other side)," Bagis said. "We would like them to be united ... But it takes two to tango."
To nevertheless strengthen ties, the European Commission in October called for the pursuit of "informal" links with Turkey on economic, trade, foreign policy and migration issues as a way out of the deadlock. The idea of a "privileged partnership" has also been floated.
But Bagis insisted that Turkey would "not settle for anything less or more than full membership."
"Turkey's membership to the EU is not a question of if, but a question of when," he said.