ANKARA (AP) – European countries should start thinking of Turkey in terms of rewards, rather than risks, an international panel recommended yesterday. The World Economic Forum, a foundation that fosters contact between government and business leaders, advised European Union countries to look beyond the problems of the large, relatively poor, Muslim nation and focus on the long-term benefits that Turkey can offer. «Turkey is perceived by many as a source of risk to Europe; it may be just the opposite,» Thierry Malleret, an author of the forum’s report on Turkey, said in a statement. Closer integration with Turkey, currently engaged in troubled membership talks with the European Union, would enhance European energy security, help the bloc overcome a demographic decline and help to better integrate minorities over the next couple of decades, the report said. Turkey is fast becoming a transit country for gas and oil supplies from the Caspian Sea, Russia and the Middle East, which would help Europe diversify supplies and reduce dependence on single suppliers. Turkey has a young population compared to that of Europe, a factor that could help overcome any labor shortages in Europe. «Whatever the short-term outcome of current negotiations on accession to the EU, Europe and Turkey are bound together. They have overwhelming strategic interest in maintaining mutual security and prosperity,» the report said. Turkey and the EU have been trying to overcome differences over the divided island of Cyprus – an EU member since 2004. The EU is pressing Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek-Cypriot goods; Turkey says it won’t do that until an international embargo against Turks on the north of the island is lifted. Turkey began EU membership negotiations last year, but European support for the country joining the 25-nation bloc is low. Many balk at the prospect of admitting the country, which has a population of more than 70 million. In an attempt to quell French opposition to Turkish accession, Paris has said it will hold a referendum on Turkey’s membership. Other countries are pushing for a «privileged partnership» for Turkey with the EU instead of full membership, a proposal Ankara rejects.