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Europe

Turkey's Erdogan Rejects EU Partnership Proposal

Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday rejected a proposal by Germany's Christian Democrats to establish a "privileged partnership" with the EU rather than admit Turkey as a full member of the union.

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Still smiling -- kind of: Merkel (left) and Erdogan

Speaking after a meeting with Christian Democratic (CDU) leader Angela Merkel in Ankara, Erdogan dismissed the plan. "This hasn't been part of the discussions and it won't become part of the discussions," the Turkish leader said. He also cautioned German conservatives not to make Turkey's EU membership bid a campaign issue during this year's European parliamentary elections. "Turkey should not be used in a political power struggle," Erdogan said.

According to news reports, Merkel said that her party would mention the Turkey's EU bid during the upcoming elections in a rational way. She added that she didn't believe Turkey could become a full member of the union in the foreseeable future. Merkel said that she saw the offer to negotiate a "privileged partnership" as a way to keep close ties between Turkey and the EU.

Merkel blames proposed delay on EU expansion

Christian Democrats had no desire to close the door on Turkey, said Merkel, who acknowledged the country's "dramatic" reform progress during the last few months. She added that her party did not see the EU as a "club of Christians."

In addition, Germany's unofficial opposition leader said the EU's current expansion was the main reason why Turkey could not be admitted any time soon. "I see this as a problem for us in the EU," Merkel said. In May, 10 countries will join the union. They include Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Despite their differences, Erdogan and Merkel agreed to expand ties between the CDU and Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, is expected to visit Turkey next week. Unlike Merkel, Schröder is a strong supporter of Turkey's EU membership application.

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