Austria demands to offer Turkey a lesser alternative to full membership

A new draft text setting up the European Union negotiating guidelines for entry talks with Turkey offered no clear resolution to strong objections by Austria, officials said Tuesday.

Facing next week's deadline for ceremoniously opening talks with Ankara, an Austrian diplomat said Vienna's demand to also offer Turkey a lesser alternative to full membership had yet to be met. All 25 nations need unanimous agreement on the EU's position in the talks.

British diplomats were to chair another ambassador's negotiating session on Turkey on Thursday, hoping to seal a deal before the deadline Monday.

The EU nations secured Cypriot support last week, after Nicosia agreed to plans that the EU push Turkey to recognize the Mediterranean island during entry talks, leaving Austria as the only hold-out.

Vienna has demanded that the EU's proposed negotiating mandate make clear that the outcome of the talks does not guarantee full membership for Turkey, leaving open the possibility of a lesser "partnership" with the EU.

It also wanted clarification that Croatia's EU entry talks be put back on track, after Zagreb failed to hand over a top indicted war crimes suspect to the U.N.'s tribunal, the AP reports.

The draft mandate states the "shared objective of the negotiations is accession," but adds they are "open-ended." It does not mention a partnership as an alternative option.

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday that EU politicians should listen to citizens who oppose Turkish membership and recognize that many believe the bloc is expanding too rapidly.

" EU diplomats have been negotiating nearly two months on trying to agree on a joint negotiating mandate and declaration demanding Turkey recognize EU member Cyprus.

Its declaration, issued last week, warns that non-recognition could paralyze the negotiations. The EU issued a declaration after Turkey said it still refused to recognize the island's government, which effectively controls only the Greek Cypriot south.

Ankara said an agreement it signed in July to widen its customs union with the EU to include Cyprus and nine other new EU members did not amount to recognition of the Greek-Cypriot government. AM

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