February 24, 2011 - 15:03 AMT
French President to visit Turkey as G20 chairman

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a dig at Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of a fleeting visit to Ankara by the French president on Friday in his role as G20 chairman, saying Turkey deserved better.

In an interview with AFP, Erdogan said that the nature of the lightning visit failed to reflect "the level of friendship" between the two states, amid frustration in Ankara at the obstacles confronting its bid for EU membership.

"I speak frankly: we would have liked to welcome him (Sarkozy) as president of France, but on Friday he comes... as chairman of the G20" group of leading economies, Erdogan said late Wednesday.

"So I think this is not a visit at the level of the friendship between Turkey and France... Turkey and Turkish-French ties deserve better than that."

Erdogan lamented that Sarkozy had not found time to pay a visit in his capacity as French president since he came to power four years ago.

"We also regret that Sarkozy has not visited Turkey since he became president. The president of Turkey went to France and so did I, as prime minister," he added.

Turkey and France have enjoyed close ties since Ottoman times, coupled with strong economic links, but relations took a downturn after Sarkozy became president, raising vocal opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Sarkozy insisted on a "very short visit" of "five or six hours," a senior Turkish diplomat said last week, voicing hope the two sides would find time to discuss issues other than those related to the G20 group, whose presidency France currently holds.

Sarkozy says Turkey does not belong to Europe, and, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, advocates a special partnership rather than full membership for the mainly Muslim nation of some 73 million, an idea that Ankara flatly rejects.

France has blocked talks in several chapters that Turkey has to negotiate before accession, contributing to a slow-down that threatens to bring the process to a halt, eubusiness.com reported.