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EU Foreign Ministers Assess Way Ahead For Turkey Relations

RFE/RL April 28, 2017

European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Malta to assess the bloc's relations with candidate Turkey amid a severe deterioration of bilateral ties.

The informal meeting on April 28 comes in the wake of an April 16 referendum in Turkey that gives more powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his harsh criticism of several EU countries, some of which he compared to Nazis.

Erdogan narrowly won the divisive referendum, which could smooth his path to remain in power until 2029. Final official results released on April 27 said "yes" received 51.4 percent and "no" received 48.6 percent. Turnout was 87.5 percent.

The European Parliament has called for the official suspension of EU accession talks with Turkey, but EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said as she arrived that the meeting was informal, "so don't expect [a] decision to be taken today."

While some ministers are calling for sustained relations with a partner who is also a pillar of the NATO alliance, others are calling for change.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Ankara shouldn't be punished.

"I really believe that Turkey is a key country in the region. We have to stay engaged, we have to talk, listen," he said. "That is very important so I don't believe that any sanctions or pressure will make a difference."

However, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak questioned Turkey's credentials to join the EU, saying that EU "values must be underpinned by concrete steps and you must not be saying one thing and marching in a different direction."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due to attend the afternoon session of the meeting.

Earlier in the week, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told RFE/RL that the bloc must start discussing a "possible new format of cooperation" since the EU accession process has stalled in recent years.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/eu-turkey-meeting-malta-way-forward/28457067.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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