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Turkey must address rights, rule of law if EU accession is to progress: Dutch FM

ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 03: Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands, Stef Blok (L) pose for a photo during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey on October 03, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Turkey’s EU accession negotiations have come to a standstill, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on a visit to Ankara on Wednesday, adding that the country must address issues including the rule of law and human rights to make progress possible, Reuters reported.

Turkey and the Netherlands agreed in July to try to improve relations strained by a dispute over campaigning for a referendum last year that granted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expanded powers.

Ankara, now mired in a bitter dispute with the United States that sent its currency plunging to a record low in August, is pushing to mend ties with Europe.

Speaking at a news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Blok said they discussed the rule of law, human rights and counterterrorism, adding that Turkey needs to take steps to make progress in its EU accession negotiations.

“The negotiations have come to a standstill. There are a lot of criteria to be met, especially regarding the rule of law and human rights,” Blok said. “Criteria are there to be met. Steps have to be taken to make progress possible.”

Last week Erdoğan said during a visit to Germany that Turkey would rapidly meet the criteria to achieve visa liberalization with the European Union, a move long sought by Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said his country wanted to revitalize its relations with the bloc and said Blok’s visit was an opportunity to move on from the “troublesome months” between the two countries.

Relations between Turkey and the EU worsened following a 2016 failed military coup, after which Ankara accused Europe of not supporting it sufficiently and of harboring individuals allegedly involved in the abortive putsch.

Rights groups and European countries have voiced concern that mass arrests as part of a post-coup crackdown have worsened Turkey’s record on human rights and press freedom under Erdoğan.

Facing a currency crisis aggravated by US sanctions, Turkey has been hoping to mend ties with the bloc and attract more private investment.

Asked if the Netherlands would take steps to help Turkey’s ailing economy, Blok said Turkey faced economic challenges but also offered an enormous possibility for growth.

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