The EU legislature's foreign affairs committee endorsed by 50 votes to 18 with six abstentions a report urging EU leaders to agree to open entry talks with Turkey "without undue delay" 
when they take the landmark decision at a 16-17 December summit.

The lawmakers said the objective of negotiations should be EU membership, although that outcome could not be automatically guaranteed and depended on the efforts of both sides.

They rejected a key amendment that would have spelled out that if Turkey did not meet all the EU criteria, "other options like a privileged partnership ought to be taken into account".

Special partnership

Responding to strong public opposition to Turkey's EU bid,
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel demanded earlier on
Tuesday that EU leaders spell out an explicit alternative to
full membership.

French and German conservatives are also campaigning for a limited "special partnership" for Ankara.

EU conservatives want Ankara
to end fighting in Kurdish areas

The parliament report, due to be formally adopted by the full house after a plenary debate on 14 December just before the summit, stressed the need for further progress on human rights; stamping out torture; and withdrawing Turkish troops from Cyprus.

The report, drafted by conservative Dutch Christian Democrat Camiel Eurlings, is not binding on EU governments. However, diplomats said it was important that it raised no new obstacles.

Since Turkey's accession negotiations would be with the 25 EU governments, including Cyprus, "the opening of negotiations thus naturally presupposes its recognition by Turkey", it said.

The lawmakers called for an immediate end to hostilities in southeastern Turkey and urged Ankara to do more "to build reconciliation with those Kurdish forces who chose to abandon the use of arms".

The report said the opening of negotiations would be the start of a long, open-ended process. 

It also called for the immediate release of all those imprisoned for non-violent expression of opinions in Turkey.