EU ministers clash over reviving Turkish talks after protests

European Union ministers clashed over whether to revive membership talks with Turkey on Monday with several countries joining Germany in arguing it would send the wrong signal to reward Ankara after a crackdown on protests, Reuters reports.

The objections of Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and others make it likely that the EU will cancel or postpone talks scheduled for Wednesday, raising new doubts about whether it will ever be admitted to the European club.

The EU had planned to breathe new life into Turkey’s EU ambitions on Wednesday by opening a new chapter, or policy area, in its EU membership talks – the first opened since 2010.

But Germany is blocking the plan over Turkey’s handling of anti-government protests that swept cities after police used teargas and water cannon to disperse a demonstration against redevelopment of an Istanbul square. Two weeks of clashes with police have left four people dead and some 7,500 injured.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger signaled strong support for Germany’s stance when he arrived for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

“We are waiting for signals from Ankara that they are really going to give people in Turkey their rights. They have to think about the behavior of their police … There has to be some movement from Turkey before we start negotiations on a new chapter,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu discussed the issue in Qatar at the weekend and held more talks by phone on Monday.

“We are in constant touch. Our position is very clear and we are making our views very clear to everyone,” a Turkish official said.

Westerwelle also said Germany was in negotiations with Turkey and in talks with its European partners. “On the one side we cannot ignore what happened in the last few weeks. On the other side we have to be aware of our responsibility in our long-term relationship with Turkey,” he said.

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