UK

Turkish president still keen on EU as he arrives in UK

(L to R) Afghanistan's Karzai, Turkey's Gul and Pakistan's Zardari
Image caption President Gul (centre) is seen as a key figure linking Europe and Asia

The Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, says his country still wants to join the European Union despite the euro zone crisis.

Mr Gul, who will arrive for a three-day state visit to Britain later,told the Sunday Telegraph, Turkey would strengthen the EU.

The Turkish head of state has various ceremonial events, public engagements and political talks this week.

He will meet Prime Minister David Cameron, with Syria high on the agenda.

Turkey is seen as an important bridge between the West and Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and also has a burgeoning economy, which currently has a 6.6% growth rate.

However, there remains strong resistance within Europe to the idea of Turkey joining the EU.

'Growth engine'

Mr Gul helped found the Justice and Development Party (AKP), an Islamist party which swept to power in Turkey in 2002 and has been at loggerheads with the secular establishment.

Image caption Mr Gul's wife Hayrunnisa was denied enrolment at a university because she wore a headscarf

Mr Gul said: "Some people who think in a narrow scope and who do lack a strategic perspective consider Turkey's membership a burden".

He said Turkey can be the EU's "growth engine".

Britain supported Turkey's right to became an official candidate for EU membership and formal accession negotiations began in 2005.

If it joined Turkey would be the first EU nation with a majority Muslim population.

One of the major stumbling blocks to membership is the situation in Cyprus.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, arguing that the Turkish Cypriot minority needed protection. That led to the island's division.

Attempts to reunite the island have failed and the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are locked in ongoing talks which show no sign of a breakthrough.

The Queen made a state visit to Turkey in 2008 and she will be meeting President Gul again during his visit.

Mr Gul and his wife Hayrunnisa arrive at London's Heathrow airport later.

She has been at the centre of several rows in Turkey because of her insistence on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which has enraged the secular establishment.

Mr Gul's three-day visit will include a trip to Portsmouth naval base.

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