Turkey will not accept any framework for its relations with the EU other than full membership, Gül told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Given Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey's EU membership, Gül was asked whether another format which would preserve Ankara's independent foreign policy may not be a better option.
Gül argued that his country indeed had special relations with its neighbours and the region – but added that Spain or the UK had exactly the same kind of relationship with Latin American countries or the Commonwealth respectively.
"You don't ask Britain or Spain to limit their relations because of EU policy, do you?" he asked.
The Turkish head of state also rejected perceptions in Western Europe that millions of Turks would settle there once restrictions are lifted.
"Look, we are not the Turkey from ten or twenty years ago. Turkey is becoming attractive. French and Germans are coming to Turkey. Many ex-pats are coming to settle here. They are saying that Turkey is attractive. I don't need to say it myself," Gül said.
The Turkish president touched upon the same issues in his speech at the conference, organised by the Institut du Bosphore, a Franco-Turkish think-tank supported by TÜSİAD, the leading Turkish business association. French newspaper Les Echos and EurActiv Turkey were media partners at the event.
Gül said Turkey was pursuing its "natural role" in the region, which other countries should not confuse with changing values and a lack of commitment to Europe. He implicitly criticised Sarkozy's lack of respect for the agreed EU perspective of the country.
Against 'double standards'
Speaking before the president, Egemen Bağış, Turkey's European affairs minister and chief EU negotiator, took a similar line, pointing out that the unresolved Cyprus issue had not prevented Greece and the Republic of Cyprus from joining – and neither should it hinder Turkey.
The two keynote speakers, President Gül and French Europe Secretary Lellouche, agreed to disagree on the potential outcome of Turkey's EU negotiations, which opened in 2005 and saw France block talks on several negotiating chapters (see EurActiv LinksDossier on EU-Turkey relations).
"Turkey has its project, which is membership, and we have another one, which is partnership," said Lellouche, speaking to EurActiv.
In his speech, he remained vague as to the kind of relationship Turkey could have with the Union.
"France intends to build, with its partners, a Europe that would be a large space of solidarity, stability and security that would encompass the 27-member Union, enlarged tomorrow with the Balkans, with Turkey, Russia and Ukraine on its side," he stated.
However, a degree of softening in the French stance since the 2007 presidential elections was noted by participants. Now, the keyword no longer appears to be "privileged partnership" but rather a more substantial "strategic partnership," albeit not supported by Turkey.
According to diplomats, Sarkozy was advised to "tone down his rhetoric" in preparation for his visit to Turkey later this year. Paris found that following statements made by Sarkozy which were seen as offensive in Turkey, French companies missed out on a number of large projects. For example, Turkey's first nuclear plant will be build by Russia's RosAtom – not French company Areva.