The EU is concentrating on resolving a standoff blocking the start of Turkey's landmark entry talks next week, caught between Austrian opposition and Ankara's threat to walk away from them.
"We are on a razor's edge,' said an EU diplomat, as the British EU presidency and Austria debated the terms that would permit Turkey's long-awaited accession negotiations to go ahead.
Four out of five Austrians are opposed to the relatively poor, predominantly Muslim country joining, and the government in Vienna does not want the talks to start with full membership being the only option.
Britain has called an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on Sunday to try to end the weeks-long impasse, which sparked new public anger in Turkey over what is seen as another obstacle to its quest for membership.
'I believe a solution will be found on Sunday night,' said an EU
'I give it at best a 50-50 chance,' said another.
EU leaders agreed in December to open talks with Turkey on Oct 3. But problems arose in July when, while signing an updated customs accord with the bloc, Ankara reaffirmed that it would not recognise member state Cyprus.
A dispute over how to respond to that was finally resolved last week, but a row remains over the negotiating framework -- the guiding procedures and principles for the accession talks.
Diplomats say Austria wants a reference to the EU's 'absorption capacity' worked into that text; meaning that Turkey's membership would be refused if it fails to meet the accession criteria or the bloc cannot integrate it.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has made it clear he will not take part in the talks until he is satisfied Turkey's case has not been compromised.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea