BRUSSELS: It is out of the question for Turkey to break off relations with the EU and it will press ahead with its membership bid, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Wednesday.
EU ties with Turkey have been strained to breaking point by a massive crackdown following a failed July coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and were tested again after a referendum last month gave him increased powers.
But Celik insisted none of this should be allowed to stand in the way of improved relations and ultimate membership of the bloc.
“We want to move forward within the context of full membership. There is no question of breaking off relations with the EU,” Celik said after talks with EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini in Brussels.
“The picture that emerges after the referendum shows the democratic power of Turkey. This needs to be taken account of well,” he said in remarks made in Brussels and broadcast on Turkish television.
The minister repeated that Turkey faced a major terrorist threat but had got through the coup attempt with “a democratic self confidence.”
Urging Brussels to open new chapters in Ankara’s long-stalled accession talks, Celik said: “We need to come to an era where relations are tighter.”
A spokeswoman for Mogherini said the two had had “a frank, positive and constructive discussion and talked about the present and future perspective for EU-Turkey relations.”
The spokeswoman gave no further details.
Mogherini said last month the accession talks had not been halted—despite calls by some EU member states—but progress depended on Ankara meeting the rights and democratic norms expected of all candidate countries.
Celik is due to meet European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos later Wednesday.
In March last year, the EU signed an accord with Turkey to speed up the accession talks, along with visa liberalisation and billions in aid in return for Ankara halting a flood of migrants, mostly from Syria and Iraq, coming to Europe.
Erdogan and top Turkish officials have repeatedly threatened to rip up the deal because of the lack of progress in the membership talks. AFP