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EU-Turkey relations at 'historic' low point: European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament have urged other EU institutions to make accession talks with Ankara conditional upon democratic reform. Turkey rejected the legislative body's report.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Talks for Turkey to join the EU have been at a standstill

The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a report urging the EU Commission to formally suspend accession negotiations with Turkey if Ankara does not reverse its "hostile" policies. 

"In recent years, the [government] of Turkey has distanced itself increasingly from EU values and standards. As a result, relations have been brought to a historic low point," Members of the European Parliament said in a statement.

MEPs slammed Turkey's human rights record and its foreign policies in the report adopted by 480 votes in favor, 64 against and 150 abstentions.

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"This report is probably the toughest yet in its criticism of the situation in Turkey," said MEP Nacho Sanchez Amor.

"We urge the other EU institutions to make any positive agenda they might pursue with Turkey conditional upon democratic reform," he added.

What are MEPs demanding from Turkey?

MEPs urged Turkey to release jailed human rights activists, journalists and  "others who have been detained by the government on unsubstantiated charges."

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"[MEPs] also repeat their encouragement to Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide," their statement read.

Still, the European Parliament asserted its view of Ankara as a key partner for stability in the region, noting Turkey's role in hosting millions of refugees.

However, they insisted that "the use of migrants and refugees as a tool for political leverage, and blackmail cannot be accepted."

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How has Turkey responded?

The Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement rejecting the European Parliament's report, saying it was "by no means objective." 

"It is well known... that the standstill in Turkey's accession negotiations is not due to Turkey's lack of will for reforms," the Turkish statement read. 

"As a candidate country, Turkey expects the [European Parliament] to carry out constructive efforts about how the relations can be improved with Turkey and how it can contribute to Turkey's EU integration process, rather than being a platform for baseless allegations and blind accusations against Turkey."

Negotiations to join the EU started in 2005. However, the EU Commission said last year that accession talks had "effectively come to a standstill," due to Ankara's strained relations with Cyprus and human rights concerns. 

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