Assad Says EU Must Accept Turkey as Member

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the European Union must accept Turkey as a member if it wants to avoid being a "Christian club," in an interview with a German newspaper.

Asked whether Turkey should join the E.U., Assad told Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper: "They simply must ask Turkey to become a member because they need it as an Islamic country so the E.U. does not become a Christian club."

"You speak of openness, of dialogue among various cultures. But you cannot have a dialogue if you isolate yourselves and limit yourselves to one culture and social order."

Germany has the largest Turkish community outside Turkey with about three million members.

Although Turkey began accession talks as far back as 2005, at the same time as Croatia, it lags far behind the Balkan state which hopes to wind up negotiations next year and join in early 2013.

E.U. heavyweights France and Germany have serious qualms about taking on a mostly Muslim nation of 78 million people.

Berlin regularly stresses that the E.U.'s accession talks with Turkey are open-ended.

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