Germany's foreign minister has urged the EU to advance stalled talks on Turkish membership. Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks could improve legal and human rights standards amid the government's corruption woes.
Steinmeier (pictured right) advocated Monday that two key sections ofTurkey's negotiations with the European Union
be opened as soon as possible.
He said talks on chapters 23 and 24, which focus on justice and human rights issues, could prove vital as Turkey grapples with a high-profile corruption probe, as they would allow for "serious and credible discussions on the current state of affairs in Turkey."
"The door must stay open for Turkey," Steinmeier said.
The foreign minister's comments followed a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Berlin. Davutoglu also pushed for accelerated negotiations, recommending they take place alongside planned reforms to Turkey's judicial system.
Turkey has been an EU candidate since 1999. Talks have long been stalled, however, primarily over European concerns over a territorial dispute with Greece over northern Cyprus. Both Greece and Cyprus, as EU members, can veto Turkey's accession.
The recent corruption allegations implicating Turkey's leadership, and its handling of them, have served as a further setback, as has the country's treatment of minority populations like Kurds.
Corruption scandal takes its toll
A widespread probe into graft allegations resulted in the detention of dozens of people in December, including top business figures and the sons of three ministers, who have since resigned. Allegations against them include bribery for construction projects and illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused followers of an Islamic movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the investigation in order to discredit him in the run-up to local elections in March.
The government has since dismissed and reassigned hundreds of police officers and prosecutors in what critics say is an attempt to derail the investigation.
The allegations prompted several mass anti-government rallies andseverely hit Turkey's economy, particularly its currency.
Prime Minister Erdogan is due to visit Berlin on Tuesday - on the campaign trail. For the first time, non-resident Turks are eligible to vote in March's elections. Some 3 million Turks live in Germany.
ccp/msh (Reuters, dpa)