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Turks lose support for EU, grow closer to Middle East: poll

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(ANKARA) - Turks have lost their appetite for European Union membership and believe their country should develop closer ties with the Middle East, according to a survey received Thursday.

The Transatlantic Trends study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) found that only 38 percent of Turkish respondents in 2010 said they backed their country's integration with the EU, compared to 74 percent in 2004.

The number of Turks who said they favoured closer cooperation between Ankara and Muslim countries in the Middle East has doubled from 10 percent in 2009 to 20 percent this year, said the survey.

At the same time 48 percent of European respondents opposed letting Turkey join the 27-nation club, compared to 38 percent in favour.

Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, but the process has stalled amid opposition from some member states, lack of reform in Turkey and a trade row over the divided island of Cyprus.

EU heavyweights France and Germany, are notable opponents of Turkey's EU aspirations, arguing that the mainly Mulim country of some 73 million people does not have a place in Europe.

The United States and several European countries have expressed concern that Turkey, the sole Muslim member of NATO, was sliding away from the West after the country objected to fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme at a UN Security Council vote in June.

The vote coincided with a crisis in Turkey's ties with Israel over the May 31 raid on Gaza-bound aid ships, which killed nine Turks.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government insists that it remains committed to Turkey's traditionally pro-Western path, while seeking a stronger say in regional affairs and closer ties and more trade with eastern neighbours.

The Transatlantic Trends survey was carried out in June in Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey as well as the United States.

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