One wonders whether the Turks still want to become EU members. Ankara is demanding an official apology from Copenhagen for the twelve Muhammad drawings published last September in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Unless the Danish government of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen distances itself from the cartoons (see them here, halfway down the page) and apologizes to Muslims worldwide, no bridge-building with the Islamic world is possible, said Namik Tan, the official spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
This was Mr. Tan’s response to the European Unions’ request for Turkey to mediate in the cartoon crisis. He stressed that he regards the drawings to be as repulsive as “if these cartoons had had an anti-semitic content. If Denmark persists in insisting that this is about freedom of speech, it will be very difficult to proceed.”
The current Austrian EU presidency invited Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gül to present ideas next month at an informal so-called “Gymnich” meeting in Salzburg on how to improve relations after the cartoon conflict. Mr Gül is also expected to shed light on the so-called “Alliance of Civilisations” plan launched by UN secretary general Kofi Annan in July 2005 to bridge divides and overcome prejudice that potentially threatens world peace.
Last week Ankara received a delegation of Palestinian Hamas leaders, who are still on the EU’s list of terror suspects. Mr Gül accused Turkish critics of the Hamas visit of “ignoring their country’s power and being oblivious to history.”
Jens Rohde, the political spokesman for Mr Rasmussen’s Liberal Party, told the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken that Turkey’s demand for apologies from the Danish government might jeopardize its chances of EU membership.
“The Danish government wil under no circumstances apologize for the actions of a private newspaper,” Mr Rohde said. He added that the attitude of the Turks “does not exactly make them more qualified to be mediators – nor, to be frank, does it help them qualify to be members of the EU.”