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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kinkel: Turkey Must Wait for EU Membership

ANKARA, Turkey -- German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Wednesday that Turkey's ambitions to join the European Union would not be rejected but that Ankara will have to wait for EU membership.

"Turkey belongs to Europe. The Turkish train remains on the main track. It will not be put on the sidetrack," Kinkel told a news conference in the Turkish capital.

He said Ankara had a host of problems to sort out before being accepted into the European club.

"Turkey will not be able to become a member of the European Union in the near term ... because of human rights, the Kurdish question, relations with Greece and certain economic matters," he said.

Ankara has threatened to veto the planned expansion of NATO if it does not get a promise of EU membership.

Leading European Christian Democrats, angered by the Turkish threat, said at a meeting earlier this month that Turkey was unfit to join the EU.

Kinkel earlier traded harsh words with Turkey's Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, over Ankara's complaints that it has lost out in a trade pact with Europe.

Kinkel was close to calling off his visit at the last minute because of media reports quoting Erbakan as saying he should come to Turkey with his head bowed.

"No European will have to bow their head to Turkey in shame," Kinkel told German reporters on the first day of an official visit to Turkey.

Erbakan told members of parliament of his Welfare Party on Tuesday that Turkey should be treated with more respect internationally. He blamed Europe for what he said were losses because of a customs accord with the EU that went into effect at the start of 1996.