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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Turkey tells EU ‘stop-start’ accession talks are unacceptable as Merkel divides bloc with election pledge

Mrs Merkel has vowed to end Turkey’s bid to join the EU by breaking off formal accession talks

Turkey has told the EU that "stop-start" accession talks are unacceptable. Erdem Sahin/ EPA
Turkey has told the EU that "stop-start" accession talks are unacceptable. Erdem Sahin/ EPA

Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik has said the EU’s policy of freezing and then re-starting accession talks is not something his government will accept.

Speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia on Friday, Mr Celik criticised the EU for halting negotiations to join the bloc, saying the move would fuel “radicalism”.

“This approach of ‘I froze talks, now I restarted them’ is not acceptable for us,” he said.

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Read more: Migration tensions seep into German election campaign

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The Turkish minister’s comments come as German chancellor Angela Merkel and her election rival Martin Schulz both pledged to put an end to Turkey’s plans to join the political and economic union.

During a televised debate on Sunday, ahead of the federal elections later on this month, Mrs Merkel agreed with Mr Schulz that the current situation in the eastern European nation meant that it could not join the bloc.

“The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said.

Mrs Merkel, who is hoping to be elected for a fourth term, added: “I’ll speak to my [EU] colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks.”

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Turkey began formal accession talks to join the EU in 2005, however, negotiations were halted in 2016 amid criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on political opponents and the issue of Cyprus.

Diplomatic relations between Ankara and Berlin have become increasingly strained in recent months over the arrest of 12 German citizens in Turkey on political charges.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to end Turkey's talks to join the EU ahead of the country's elections in September. Carsten Koall/ EPA
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to end Turkey's talks to join the EU ahead of the country's elections in September. Carsten Koall/ EPA

However, the German Chancellor’s call to end Turkey’s EU bid has left Europe divided, France’s president Emmanuel Macron clarifying on Thursday that Ankara was still a “vital partner” of the bloc.

“Turkey has indeed strayed away from the European Union in recent months and worryingly overstepped the mark in ways that cannot be ignored,” Macron told Greece’s Kathimerini.

“But I want to avoid a split because it’s a vital partner in many crises we all face, notably the immigration challenge and the terrorist threat. And I deal with these matters by keeping very regular contact with President Erdogan.”

Mrs Merkel’s plans to end Turkey’s accession talks were supported by Germany’s neighbour, Austria, who have long opposed the negotiations.

"It's been known for a long time that I'm in favour of breaking off the talks with Turkey," Austria's foreign minister, Sebastien Kurz, said on Thursday.

However, fellow EU member states Finland and Lithuania disagreed with ending the negotiations, arguing the move would push Turkey even further away from EU values.

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