Turkey would like to join the European Union by 2023, Ankara's ambassador to the EU said in an interview published Friday, but the head of the bloc's executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, has warned that the country is far from ready.
"The Turkish government wants to join the EU by 2023," Turkish EU ambassador Selim Yenel told the German newspaper Die Welt.
This date would be in line with the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic, Yenel pointed out.
"It would be the pinnacle for my country, being a member then," the diplomat said.
A "fully fledged" EU membership was very important to Turkey, he added. In the long run, not being a member was not acceptable for his country.
But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that EU membership negotiations with Turkey would take "many years," in an interview with the Austrian daily Tiroler Tageszeitung published on Thursday.
He said Turkey would not join the EU anytime soon because the country "simply does not fulfil the conditions." However, it would be wrong to end the negotiations, Juncker added.
"We are not only in conversation with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his government, but are aiming for an overall solution that will benefit the Turkish people," the commission chief said.
Austria has been calling for an end to Ankara's negotiations to join the EU due to a lack of democratic standards in the wake of a failed coup attempt last month. But the demand found little support at a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels this week, diplomats said.
Turkey has been a candidate to join the European Union since 1999, but progress has been slow.
The Turkish EU ambassador also appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other key European politicians to come to Turkey in the wake of the coup attempt, saying it would help support democracy in Turkey.
Merkel, meanwhile, spoke of a "special connection" between Germany and Turkey, despite recent tensions.
"What makes the German-Turkish relationship so special is the more than 3 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany, she told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland media group.
Earlier this week, Ankara demanded explanations from Berlin after the leak of a German government document describing Turkey as a "central platform" for Islamist groupings. Berlin has also been critical of Erdogan's approach towards alleged coup supporters.