PARIS, Jan 20 (AFP) – Under pressure from President Jacques Chirac, his arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday dropped plans to present a resolution opposing Turkey’s full entry to the European Union before the national council of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.
In what was widely described as a deliberate provocation of the president — who supports Turkish entry — Sarkozy last week told journalists that the 1,500 member council would be asked to vote in March on a motion to grant Turkey “privileged partnership” rather than membership.
Sarkozy — the UMP president — has the backing of most party members in opposing full membership for Ankara, which is to start accession talks later this year.
However leading Chirac supporters criticised Sarkozy for opening a divisive issue when the party needs to be united behind the campaign for approval of the EU constitution — to be put to a referendum in the coming months.
The UMP president said Thursday that he had decided instead to present a composite resolution on the EU to the national council, in which the Turkish issue would be less prominent.