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No early decision on Turkey-EU membership: Estonia

AP , Thursday 7 Sep 2017
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No decision will be made this year on whether to end Turkey's talks to join the EU, the Estonian foreign minister said Thursday, amid growing pressure from Germany to stop Ankara's membership bid.

Germany's powerful Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said she would ask the EU to terminate Turkey's accession talks, in a sharp escalation of an already bitter diplomatic spat between two NATO allies with longstanding links.

But Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency, said any decision would have to wait for an assessment by the European Commission of whether Turkey was in accordance with membership criteria.

"I do not expect the European Union to make any decisions in that regard during this year," he said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, adding that the commission assessment was expected early next year.

In the wake of an attempted army coup against him last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pursued a crackdown on opponents in which thousands of people have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs.

A dozen German journalists and activists have also been arrested, fraying relations with Berlin.

But Turkey remains an important player for Europe on a number of key issues, not least the migrant crisis.

Echoing the cautious note struck by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day in Athens, Mikser said the EU should "tread very carefully" with Turkey, which is also an important member of NATO.

"While discussing Turkey's status as a candidate country we should also discuss the future relationship in all its aspects, and not make any hasty decisions without looking at these things comprehensively," Mikser said.

The EU and Turkey last year agreed a deal which helped stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Greece.

Ankara has threatened to rescind the pact at times when tensions have flared with Brussels over concerns of human rights abuses

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