Sify, India
Oct 2 2005

Turkey in EU would help the Muslim world: analysts


Sunday, 02 October , 2005, 08:19

Amman: Arab countries believe Turkey entering the European Union
would strengthen their own relations with Europe and bolster efforts
to portray Islam as a moderate religion, analysts say.

"Turkey's negotiations with the European Union are a sign of
encouragement," said Fares Braizat, a researcher at the Centre of
Strategic Studies of the University of Jordan.

"For the Arabs it means that Turkey could play a play a significant
role within the European Union regarding EU policies towards the Arab
and Muslim regions,' he said. `Turkey is seen as a model for positive
engagement with the world."

With one foot firmly planted in the east and the other in the west,
Turkey is seen by other Muslim countries as a role model that has
successfully balanced tradition and modernisation.

"The Arabs look up to Turkey as a model for bringing modernisation
and democracy," Braizat said.

"This could inspire Arab countries that if you introduce democratic
reforms, it would mean you have the advantage of being considered for
a better partnership with the European Union," he added.

A Muslim but secular state of 70 million people, Turkey is due to
begin accession talks on Monday with a Europe whose history and
culture are broadly Christian, but where the influence of that faith
is waning.

The entry of a "Muslim country into a Christian club will be
beneficial for both parties", said Qatari analyst Abdelhamid
al-Ansari.

The move is expected to trigger economic dividends for Ankara and
help Turkey "rationalise its policies", said Ansari, a former dean of
theology at Doha University.

"Ankara appears more apt at admitting the Armenian genocide and at
recognising Cyprus, but also in dealing well with its minorities such
as the Kurds," he said, listing the three thorny issues standing in
the way of Turkey's EU membership.

By accepting Turkey, "the EU will be shedding its 'Christian club'
label, improving Europe's image in the Muslim world and encouraging
Turkey's model - a moderate Islamic state which is also a democracy,"
Ansari said.

"This would help moderates and liberals across the Muslim world to
confront Islamic extremism."

Turkey's neighbour Syria, which is facing harsh criticism from
Washington over its alleged failure to prevent the infiltration of
militants and weapons into Iraq, is crossing its fingers that Ankara
will be admitted into the EU.

"Turkey's membership is important for Syria because it will become
Europe's direct neighbour," said Elias Murad, the chief editor of
Al-Baath, the ruling party's newspaper.

"This will contribute to improve political and economic relations
with the EU," Murad said.

Syria had to pull troops out of Lebanon in April under heavy
international pressure, ending nearly three decades of military and
political domination of its smaller neighbour.

In July, European Union foreign ministers urged Syria to support the
new government in Lebanon and stop backing groups that oppose moves
to establish peace in the Middle East

"A positive Syrian contribution to regional stability would
contribute to deepening the EU-Syria relationship," a statement said.


Lebanon also believes Turkey should be admitted to the EU.

"Turkey should not be excluded because it is a Muslim country," an
official source said.

"Turkey's admission into the EU will have a positive impact on
international cooperation and will be beneficial for Lebanon," the
source said.