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EU lawmakers cancel Turkey trip over coup criticism

Talks aimed at restoring political dialogue between the European Union and Turkey fail to get off the launch pad. Ankara objected to meeting one MEP because of her harsh criticisms of Ankara's post-coup crackdown.

Top European Union lawmakers cancelled a trip to Turkey after Ankara announced it would refuse to meet one MEP because of her critical comments about Turkey's post-coup crackdown.

Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and Kati Piri, the assembly's rapporteur on Turkey, were scheduled to "hold high-level meetings with Turkish authorities and representatives of the opposition and civil society with a view to restore political dialogue," according to a statement released by the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

"The Turks agreed to meet Brok but they did not want to meet Piri" because of the positions she has taken, an unnamed source tells AFP.

Schulz had talked to the two MEPs and decided "to postpone the visit until Parliament's prerogatives are respected."

"Brok and Piri represent the European Parliament and we cannot allow (them) to have a pick-and-choose approach on who speaks to whom," Schulz said in the statement.

Lines of communication

The head of the parliament had previously contacted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and on Tuesday he met EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik to keep the lines of communication open, according to the statement.

"The European Union remains committed to dialogue. Dialogue however requires the two sides to be willing to talk to each other," Schulz said. "I continue to hope that the European Parliament will be able to visit Turkey soon."

Meanwhile German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrapped up a tense visit to Ankara on Tuesday.

The EU has long been critical of Turkey's human rights record. The coup purge, with tens of thousands of people being detained, has strained relations to breaking point. Many MEPs support breaking off already difficult membership talks with Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly rejected EU criticism of the post-coup crackdown, and on Monday he warned the bloc it should decide by the end of the year whether the membership talks should continue.

Formal talks began in 2005 but there has been painfully little progress despite the two sides agreeing to speed up the process in March as part of an accord aimed at curbing migrant flows into Greece.

bik/bw (AFP, EUP)

 

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