Turkish president hopes for help during Latvian EU presidency

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday he hoped Latvia's six-months in the driving seat of the European Union early next year could help pave the way for his country's long-delayed membership of the EU.

Speaking in Riga after talks with his Latvian counterpart Andris Berzins, Erdogan talked up the two countries' 90-year history of diplomatic cooperation.

"Turkey's relations with the EU date back more than 50 years... unfortunately Turkey's process of accession has been delayed throughout these years.

"In this process we have always felt the support of countries like Latvia standing with us but the structure of the EU is such that if one country disagrees, chapters for a negotiation cannot be opened," Erdogan said, referring to the 'chapters' or individual areas with which prospective member states need to conform to stand a chance of being admitted to the EU.

"When I was prime minister at the beginning there were 15 chapters - now there are 35 chapters to be negotiated... the process itself has changed as Turkey's accession has proceeded. Now chapters are only opened and not closed.

"We believe that during the Latvian presidency of the EU there will be positive developments - this is what we hope to see. If a political position is not taken by some member states, it would be possible to open three or four chapters for negotiation," Erdogan said.

Earlier, Berzins reaffirmed that Latvia "completely supports the integration of Turkey into the Euopean Union" and added that Turkey in turn is supporting Latvian efforts to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"I am really pleased that Turkey, as a member of this exclusive club, is supporting Latvia's accession," Berzins said.

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