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McAleese backs Turkey's EU bid

Ireland remains a strong supporter of Turkey’s accession to the EU, President Mary McAleese has said on the second day of her…

Ireland remains a strong supporter of Turkey’s accession to the EU, President Mary McAleese has said on the second day of her official visit to the country.

The accession issue was the focus of an hour-long meeting between Mrs McAleese and Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul this morning. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mrs McAleese noted that Ireland has backed Turkish accession from the outset.

“That remains the position,” she said. “We strongly support every effort the Turkish government is making to meet the accession requirements…and everything it is doing to galvanise momentum towards accession.”

Mrs McAleese said Ireland was aware, from experience, that the accession process can be difficult but, she added, “the vision for Europe that lies beyond it and the vision for all of us is a prize worth working for.”

Mr Gul told The Irish Times earlier this week that full EU membership remains Turkey’s most important strategic objective.

Mrs McAleese is to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Anit Kabir, the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the republic of Turkey.

Tomorrow morning, the President will travel to the Gallipoli peninsula, where she will lay wreaths at several memorials. She is also due to attend a commemorative event at Green Hill cemetery during which she will unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to the Irish soldiers who lost their lives during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

Mrs McAleese will then return to Istanbul, which has been designated European Capital of Culture 2010, where she will visit sites including Aghia Sofia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.

During her trip, she will focus on bilateral links between Turkey and Ireland. Trade and investment between the two countries amounts to some €400 million in each direction. About 10,000 properties in Turkey are owned by Irish citizens, making Ireland the fifth biggest foreign investor in property in the country.

More than 100,000 Irish people visit Turkey for business and tourism each year.