BERLIN, Feb 23 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she was sceptical about Turkey's European Union membership bid, but that she favoured opening discussions in a new policy area or "chapter" with Ankara to bring fresh momentum.
Merkel sets off on a two-day visit to Ankara on Sunday, and her remarks, in her regular weekly video message, follow comments by Socialist French President Francois Hollande last week that he was ready to unblock talks with Turkey on the chapter dealing with help for EU regions.
"I think a long negotiating path lies ahead of us. Although I am sceptical, I agreed with the continuation of membership discussions. We are engaging in these with an open result," Merkel said.
"In recent times, negotiations stalled somewhat and I am in favour of opening a new chapter in order to move forward."
Turkey's EU accession negotiations, launched in 2005, are stalled due to an intractable dispute over the divided island of Cyprus, an EU member, and opposition from Paris and Berlin.
Turkey has completed only one of 35 policy "chapters" every accession candidate must conclude to join. All but 13 are blocked and the European Commission says Ankara does not yet meet EU standards on human rights and freedom of speech.
Merkel personally favours a "privileged partnership" for Turkey with the EU in place of full membership.
Turkey has complained at the lack of support given to its EU membership bid by Germany, and also that the negotiations are being conducted with an open result in mind. (Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Nick Macfie)