ISTANBUL - TDN with wire dispatches

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked yesterday for France to stand by its commitments to negotiate with Turkey for full European Union membership.
Erdoğan, who met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on the sidelines of the first summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, also discussed the Middle East peace process and the closure case against Turkey's ruling party, according to presidential sources.
Erdoğan briefed Sarkozy on Turkey's expectations for the EU accession process. Sarkozy in return said he would work to provide a normal course of negotiations as promised earlier by France, said the sources.
The active role played by both Turkey and France in the Middle East was also on the agenda during the meeting. Sarkozy said France and Turkey were acting in the same direction in terms of the Israeli-Syrian peace process, and said he welcomed Turkish mediation efforts.
Sarkozy also asked Erdoğan's opinion on the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Erdoğan said he trusted in the Constitutional Court's decision and that he hoped for an immediate verdict. Sarkozy said France expected a verdict in line with democratic principles and the rule of law.
The French president thanked Erdoğan for attending the summit, stressing that he was pleased with the active role played by Turkey in the process. He reiterated that the Union for the Mediterranean was not related to Turkey's EU accession process.
Heads of state and government from the 27 EU nations and an arc of countries from North Africa to the Balkans representing some 756 million people inaugurated the new forum at the Grand Palais on Paris' Champs Elysees.
The summit saw Syrian President Bashir al-Assad return to the international stage, but while he sat at the same table as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, no talks between the two leaders were planned.
The summit also provided a venue for France to step up its Middle East diplomacy, with Sarkozy hosting Israeli-Palestinian talks at the Elysees following a landmark Syrian-Lebanese meeting Saturday.
The union aims to build on the EU's 13-year-old Barcelona process, which was plagued by disputes between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Drawing up a final declaration has proved difficult, with references in the draft to Middle East peace moves and the fight against terrorism, extremism and weapons of mass destruction likely to be chopped out.
"It looks fairly close, but there are some of the usual things outstanding. That belongs to things that normally happen," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said early Sunday when asked about progress on the text.