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EU chief welcomes election of Gul as Turkish president; hopes for more reform

EU chief welcomes election of Gul as Turkish president; hopes for more reform

The European Union welcomed Abdullah Gul's election as Turkey's new president Tuesday, hoping it will lead to further economic and political reforms needed for the country to move closer to the bloc.
Recent parliamentary elections and Tuesday's parliamentary vote electing Gul as Turkey's new head of state "represents a considerable achievement for Turkey and the Turkish people," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.
In a statement, Barroso hoped the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "will be able to resume work ... to give fresh, immediate and positive impetus" to EU entry talks Turkey started with the 27-nation bloc.
EU officials had been privately concerned over warnings by Turkish generals, which voiced their opposition to Gul's bid to become president of Turkey. The EU, however, took no position on the internal debate in Turkey over Gul's Islamic views or concerns voiced by opposition groups that Gul's presidency would put Turkey's secular state at risk.
Gul's election took place a day after the military, which has ousted four governments since 1960, issued a stern warning about the threat to secularism. Gul's initial bid for president was blocked over fears that he planned to dilute secular traditions.
In his former role as foreign minister, Gul worked closely with EU officials in recent years to spur on Turkey's bid to join the EU, which Gul strongly backs.
Gul opened membership negotiations with EU foreign ministers in October 2005, but those talks have made little progress, with talks only opened in two out of the 35 policy areas, where Turkey must implement EU legislation.
Progress came to a virtual standstill late last year when EU leaders decided to partially suspend negotiations in protest at Ankara's refusal to open its ports to trade with EU member Cyprus.
Turkey does not recognize the government of Cyprus, which has led to a standoff between Brussels and Ankara over the membership bid.
Rene van der Linden, president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg, France, also welcomed Gul's election calling him a "modern reformer."