Cameron turns on the charm for Turkey

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron has launched Britain’s charm offensive against Turkey with a speech firmly pledging UK support for Turkish entry into the European Union.

The prime minister, speaking in Ankara, said he felt “very passionately” about helping Turkey become a member of the European Union.

His comments are likely to alienate Germany and France, which remain deeply opposed to Turkish accession to the EU.

“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been,” the prime minister said.

“My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.

“So I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.”

Mr Cameron is seeking to secure Turkish cooperation on a number of regional issues, including the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan, the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb and the Israeli-Palestinian standoff.

But the continuing division of Cyprus, its treatment of Kurdish separatists and its human rights record remain areas of concern.

Mr Cameron has signed a strategic partnership with Turkey which, he concluded, aims to secure Ankara greater influence in Europe.

Turkey, a founding member of the European Council in 1949 and a key Nato ally of the west, began formal negotiations to join the EU in 2005. But opposition to its membership means the talks, even if ultimately successful, will last at least until 2015.

Mr Cameron, whose first four foreign trips were to France, Germany, Afghanistan and the US, is due to begin a three-day visit to India after leaving Turkey.