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Old 04.10.2005, 12:56   #1
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Agence France Presse -- English
October 3, 2005 Monday 2:05 AM GMT

Turkey, hoping to begin membership talks with the European Union on
Monday, stands at the center of a strategic zone between the Caucasus,
the Middle East and the Balkans.

Following is a factsheet on Turkey, comparing some figures with those
of the European Union:

GEOGRAPHY: Covering an area of 779,452 square kilometres (311,781
square miles) unevenly divided between Europe and Asia, Turkey borders
Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Greece and Bulgaria.

It is washed by the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean to the west
and the Black Sea to the north, and surrounds the Sea of Marmara. The
area west of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus (the straits between
Europe and Asia) accounts for five percent of the total.

Comparatively, the total area of the EU countries is 3,691,214 sq km
(1,476,486 sq miles).

POPULATION: 70.7 million inhabitants (2003), including 13 to 19
million Kurds.

If Turkey joins, the EU's population, which stood at 455 million in
January 2004, would pass the half-billion mark.

CAPITAL: Ankara, population 3.5 million. Istanbul is the country's
largest city and industrial and commercial hub with a population
in excess of 10 million (Turkish State Statistics Institute, 2000 -
latest figures available).


RELIGION: Muslim (99 percent): 80 percent Sunni, 20 percent Alevi.

Armenians form the largest largest religious minority, with about
45,000 people, followed by some 35,000 Jews.

Turkey's entry into the EU would bring the number of Muslims in the
European bloc to around 80 million.

RECENT HISTORY: Founded in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was created
after the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I.

The republic became a modern secular state under its founder, Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk ("father of the Turks"), who presided over it until
his death in 1938.

His successor, Ismet Inonu, ran the counry under a single-party system
until 1946, when he introduced multi-party democracy. Turkey was the
scene of military coups followed by periods of repression in 1960,
1971 and 1980.

>>From 1984 to 1999, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) led an armed
rebellion in southeastern Turkey, which claimed more than 37,000
lives. Fighting resumed in the mainly Kurdish southeast in June 2004
after the PKK called off a five-year truce.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Ahmet Necdet Sezer has been president since
May 5, 2000.

Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Welfare Party, became Turkey's first
Islamist prime minister on June 28, 1996, in a coalition with his
predecessor, Tansu Ciller, the country's first woman premier.

He was pressured into resigning by the army in June 1997 and was
replaced by Mesut Yilmaz, leader of the Motherland Party, who headed
a left-right coalition.

The Yilmaz coalition fell in November 1998 amid allegations of
corruption and was replaced by another left-right coalition, led by
Bulent Ecevit.

In general elections in November 2002, the Justice and Development
Party (AKP), which has its roots in radical Islam but describes
itself as simply "conservative", swept to power and obtained an
absolute majority in parliament. Its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
became prime minister in March 2003.

ECONOMY: The economy, which is based mainly on textiles, light
industry, tourism and agriculture, saw considerable growth until it was
hit by a severe crisis in the aftermath of the first Gulf War in 1991.

With 14 million foreign visitors generating 13.2 billion dollars of
income, tourism in 2003 was the country's biggest earner and has grown
sharply since then. Turkey is linked to the EU with an association
accord signed in 1963 and a customs agreement signed in 1996.

Turkey's candidacy for EU membership was rejected in 1989, largely
due to its human rights record, but was accepted on December 10, 1999.

GNP PER CAPITA: 2,790 dollars.

By comparison, the highest per capita GNP in the EU belongs to
Luxembourg, with 38,830 dollars; the lowest, Latvia's, is 3,480
dollars. The average per capita GNP of the EU is 19,775 dollars
(World Bank, 2003).

FOREIGN DEBT: 147.035 billion dollars (Turkish State Statistics
Institute, 2003)

ARMED FORCES: 514,850 men, of whom 402,000 are land forces, 52,750
naval forces and 60,100 air forces (IISS 2003/2004).

Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952.
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