British PM David Cameron says he will "fight" for Turkey's accession to the European Union, despite the slow pace of negotiations.
Those opposed to Turkey joining the EU have cited a variety of reasons, including the country's poor human rights record and fears of a Muslim-majority country - albeit with a strong secular tradition - being at the heart of Europe.
Proponents say that while reform is necessary, and contentious questions like Turkey's denial of the 1915-23 Armenian Genocide (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/3873) remain to be faced, these will be more fruitfully dealt with inside rather than outside the Union.
Pope Benedict XVI has in the past expressed disquiet about possible Turkish EU accession, but has gradually changed his view on the matter.
However, a raft of political, economic and procedural issues have delayed progress on achieving membership.
On his first visit to Turkey as prime minister, Mr Cameron said the country could become a "great European power", helping build links with the Middle East.
He also compared hostility to the membership bid in some parts of the EU with the way the UK's entry was once regarded.
Mr Cameron is expected to agree a new strategic partnership with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during his visit.
Cynics say that he also hopes that robust support for Turkey's EU membership will also secure reciprocal support for the more reserved and sheltered position within Europe which Mr Cameron favours for the UK - leading, as he does, a party with a high number of 'Euro-sceptics' in it.
In his speech at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Mr Cameron said he wanted to "pave the road" for Turkey to join the EU, as a country "vital for our economy, vital for our security and vital for our diplomacy".
A European Union without Turkey at its heart was "not stronger but weaker... not more secure but less... not richer but poorer".
He added: "I'm here to make the case for Turkey's membership of the EU. And to fight for it."
Commentators suggest that despite the many reform questions facing its institutions, actual contact with the EU has in practice, as with modern economic and political realities, blunted the scepticism of those who have in the past traded on anti-EU rhetoric.
Also on Ekklesia: 'From Turkey to Gaza: Human rights and fundamental freedoms?', by Harry Hagopian - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12413