France seeks nuclear coop with Turkey despite opposition to EU bid

France offered Turkey cooperation on nuclear energy and closer trade ties despite relations have been damaged by Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey's EU bid.

France seeks nuclear coop with Turkey despite opposition to EU bid

France offered Turkey cooperation on civil nuclear energy and closer trade ties on Friday, seeking to improve relations that have been damaged by President Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey joining the European Union.

Sarkozy proposed to his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul during a working lunch at his Elysee palace that the two countries could work together on nuclear projects not only in Turkey but also in central Asia, Sarkozy's office said.

"President Gul said he was interested. He noted that he had met several times with Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive of (nuclear technology group) Areva, and that there were very interesting prospects," said an Elysee source.

The source gave no further details about those prospects, but said that Sarkozy had expressed hope that French power group GDF Suez would soon be able to take part in the EU-backed multi-billion dollar Nabucco gas pipeline.

GDF Suez withdrew its bid to take part in building Nabucco, which will run through Turkey, in 2008 because of Turkish objections to its participation. The Turkish position was motivated by France's stance on its EU accession talks.

Under Sarkozy, France has spearheaded opposition to the prospect of full EU membership for Turkey, instead suggesting that the country could enter some form of "privileged partnership" with the bloc.

Despite that sticking point in relations, France has significant business interests in Turkey. According to business organisation MEDEF, 300 French companies are present in Turkey and France is the second-biggest foreign investor there.

Boosting trade

The volume of trade between the two countries is about 11 billion euros ($16.2 billion) per year and the two leaders set a goal of raising that to 15 billion by 2012.

"We would like to go up to 15 billion, and later even up to 20 billion," Gul told business leaders at a MEDEF event.

French authorities have been keen to show Turkey signs of friendship to offset the disagreement over EU accession.

A Turkish cultural season is under way at several major museums including the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower is lit in the Turkish colours of red and white every night from Oct. 6 to 11.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon, appearing at the MEDEF event alongside Gul, said he would like to see new industrial partnerships between France and Turkey similar to those achieved in the aeronautical industry.

Turkey is a partner to European planemaker Airbus in the construction of the future A350 plane and is also already a member of the group of countries involved in the project to build the European A400M military transport plane.

Gul said bilateral relations between the two countries were good although he urged France to add Turkey to the list of countries it considers as important strategic partners.

"France considers some regions of the world as strategic bases. I think you have omitted Turkey," he said.

He was apparently referring to a series of strategic partnerships France has signed with emerging countries like Brazil, India, Egypt and Kazakhstan.

Last Mod: 10 Ekim 2009, 12:28
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