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Europe

Turkey's Erdogan shrugs off threat of EU membership freeze

Turkey's president has dismissed prospects of a vote by the European Parliament to halt Turkey's membership talks. Some EU lawmakers have voiced concern that Turkey's post-coup purges are criminalizing dissent.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that a vote by the lawmakers in the European Parliament on whether to halt EU membership talks with Ankara "has no value in our eyes" and again accused Europe of siding with terrorist organizations. 

"We have made clear time and time again that we take care of European values more than many EU countries, but we could not see concrete support from Western friends ... None of the promises were kept," Erdogan told an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Istanbul.

European Union legislators are scheduled to hold a non-binding vote this week on whether Turkey's accession talks should be suspended over the Turkish government's ongoing crackdown that's purged more than a hundred thousand civil servants, soldiers and members of the judiciary accused of siding with the abortive July putsch.

Turkey's government has also used emergency powers to remove around 50 locally elected municipal leaders in the predominately Kurdish southeast as well as jail the leadership of the country's main pro-Kurdish opposition. That and other factors have led some members of the European Parliament to urge a halt to EU membership talks with Turkey because of a perceived crackdown on legitimate dissent.

Merkel touts open lines of communication

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not comment specifically on the EU membership talks but said it's important to maintain open dialogue with Ankara. "We have an interest in cooperating with Turkey in a sensible way," Merkel said during a general debate in the Bundestag, "but that doesn't rule out clearly addressing what is alarming."

Erdogan has repeatedly accused Europe of harboring members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and is deemed a terrorist organization by both the EU and the United States. "On one hand you declare the PKK a terrorist organization, on the other you have terrorists roaming freely in the streets of Brussels. What kind of sincerity is this?" Erdogan said.

Merkel also pushed back Wednesday against the accusation that Berlin harbors Kurdish militants. The German government, she told German lawmakers, acts against "every form of terrorism" and authorities have opened proceedings against alleged PKK members in more than 4,000 cases. She noted, however, that "our state of law reaches verdicts that politicians can't influence, and these verdicts have to be accepted."

The Turkish president also recently openly suggested his country join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia and China, as an alternative to EU membership.

jar/sms (Reuters, AP)