By Vincent Boland

Financial Times (London, England)
October 3, 2005 Monday
London Edition 1

There can be little doubt that the stakes involved in Turkey's quest
for EU membership are high for Erdogan and his ruling Islam-tinged
Justice and Development party.

He raised expectations very high - perhaps excessively so - in the
first two years of his administration, ahead of last December's EU
summit at which Turkey was invited to become a member.

In doing so, some critics say, he made Turkey, and perhaps his own
political future, too dependent on the EU issue.

Still, in going out on a limb for EU entry, Erdogan has won friends
in unlikely places. When a minor court ordered the suspension of
a recent conference on the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman
soldiers in 1915, he was quick not only to object to the verdict
(the conference went ahead a day late) but to insist that one needed
to respect opinions with which one might disagree.

The statement was welcomed by the academics attending the conference.

As members of Istanbul's sizeable chattering class, they are not
automatic Erdogan supporters. Perhaps they recalled that he, too,
has suffered for freedom of speech: he was jailed in 1999 for reciting
a banned Islamist poem when Istanbul mayor.