EU split over Turkey membership bid

EU split over Turkey membership bidThe European Union was divided on Monday on how to handle Turkey over its crackdown on alleged supporters of a failed July military coup, Reuters reported.

On the one side Austria is leading those calling to suspend Ankara's EU membership bid, on the other hand Britain stay firmly in favor of maintaining ties.

As the 28 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels, President Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to hold a referendum on whether to continue the membership talks and also repeated his line that he would reinstate the death penalty if parliament passed such a law.

Turkey has suspended, dismissed or detained at least 110,000 people, including soldiers, judges and teachers, since the coup. Critics of President Tayyip Erdogan accuse him of using it as a pretext to crush dissent, a charge he denies.

"I am not for the continuation of entry negotiations and I believe that this Turkey does not have a place in the European Union," Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on his arrival in Brussels for talks among the 28 EU foreign ministers.

But Boris Johnson, the foreign minister of Britain, which intends to leave the EU in the next few years, cautioned against over-reaction to events in Turkey, a large, strategically important, mainly Muslim country on the EU's southeastern flank.

"We should not push Turkey into a corner, we should not overreact in a way that is against our collective interests," said Johnson.

Despite its increased concerns over human rights and press freedoms in Turkey, the EU has often toned down its criticism of Erdogan and his government, whose cooperation it needs to keep low the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe via Greece from Turkey.

More than 1.3 million people arrived in Europe last year, triggering bitter disputes between EU member states over how to handle them. The deal with Turkey, though much criticized by rights groups, has sharply reduced the flow of people.
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