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Europe

Majority of European Parliament votes to freeze EU membership talks with Turkey

In a non-binding vote, a majority of European Parliament lawmakers were in favor of ending EU accession talks with Turkey. Whether membership negotiations actually end remains to be seen.​

The majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament on Thursday voted to halt membership talks with Turkey after Ankara's post-coup crackdown on the opposition, academics, intellectuals and those with potential ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

MEPs voting in Strasbourg said the parliament "strongly condemns the disproportionate repressive measures taken in Turkey since the failed military coup attempt."

About 37,000 people have been arrested since the coup, which alongside thousands of job dismissals and measures against Turkish media have pushed many MEPs to send a clear message to Ankara.

The non-binding motion approved by European lawmakers said parliament "calls... on the Commission and on the Member States to initiate a temporary freeze of the on-going accession negotiations with Turkey."

The vote was how the European Parliament could make its opinion known in an official - and public - way to the European Commission, which is responsible for the negotiations, and the governments of the bloc's 28 member states.

'Null and void'

The Turkish EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, reacted promptly to the vote, calling it "null and void" and saying it "breached basic European values."

He claimed that the European Parliament "loses perspective when it comes to Turkey."

His comments echo those of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the vote.

Erdogan on Wednesday branded the vote "worthless" as it is non-binding, noting that most EU member states - with the exception of Austria - want to keep the Turkey talks on track.

"I want to say in advance from here and address the whole world watching on their TV screens - this vote has no value at all, no matter what result emerges," he said.

But the motion, approved by a large majority - 479 votes to 37, with 107 abstentions - is a blow to Ankara-Brussels ties, which have frayed since the July 15 failed coup, threatening a key migration deal between the EU and Turkey. 

Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005. Ankara's aspirations to become part of the bloc date back to the 1960s.

Earlier this year Brussels agreed to give visa-free travel to Turks once Ankara had carried out reforms and also pledged more aid to Turkey in exchange for Ankara cutting the number of refugees attempting to reach Greek islands from Turkey.

Watch video 01:51

European Parliament votes to freeze accession talks with Turkey - Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels

jbh/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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