EU foreign ministers have urged the need for dialogue with Turkey while Germany doubled down on its plan to freeze accession talks. Turkey has slammed the block for making a "child's game" out of its membership bid.
While Berlin reiterated its plan to consider suspending or even ending EU membership talks with Ankara, several European Union foreign ministers warned on Friday against hasty action against Ankara.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed on Friday the chancellor's intention to raise the issue at an upcoming EU summit in October. In a TV debate on Sunday, both Merkel and her Social Democrat rival Martin Schulz called for an end to Turkey's membership negotiations.
Berlin's position was met with resistance at a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in Estonia. Several of the 28-member bloc's top diplomats underscored Turkey's importance as a NATO ally and a security partner.
'I would advise caution'
Speaking with DW in Estonia's capital Tallinn, Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said although he understands that Germany is in the midst of an election campaign and that Berlin is "extremely annoyed" with the rhetoric coming from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he disagrees with Berlin's strategy concerning EU talks.
"We have to be careful. We need to know where we will end up if we launch into a debate with Turkey over this sensitive topic. If we don't know, I would advise caution," Asselborn said.
"I have felt for a long time that we in the European Union are not at a point to end or freeze [the accession talks]," he added.
Other EU foreign ministers echoed Asselborn's comments, saying that ending the accession talks is not an option.
"The Turks have been going through a very difficult time," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said, adding that countries in the bloc are concerned about the human rights situation in the country.
"We should not push Turkey away," Johnson said. "It's a strategically important country for us."
Germany's plan has been supported by Austria while several other EU officials suggested suspending the accession talks.
All of the EU member countries would have to unanimously agree to completely end Turkey's membership bid. However, a suspension of the talks only requires a majority backing.
Turkey fires back
Turkey's EU affairs minister accused Germany of trying to use the EU as a "tool" in Berlin's ongoing spat with Ankara.
"This is not a children's game at all," Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik said after the two-day meeting in Tallinn.
"You cannot talk about suspending or halting the accession negotiations and then restarting it in six months, and that Turkey is a great strategic and important country," he said.
Ties between Berlin and Ankara have significantly deteriorated in recent months following last year's failed coup in Turkey, which prompted a widespread crackdown on dissenters, including academics and journalists.
rs/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)