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Erdoğan asks EU to relaunch membership negotiations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) give a joint news conference after talks at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 22, 2022. Adem ALTAN / AFP

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday asked the European Union to relaunch talks for Turkey to eventually become an EU member, on the eve of a summit focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Turkish president’s comments come as the war in Ukraine allows Ankara to return to the international stage by offering its services as a mediator in the conflict.

“We expect the EU to open quickly the chapters of the membership negotiations and to start negotiations on a customs union without yielding to cynical calculations,” Erdoğan said after talks with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Negotiations for Turkey’s accession one day to the 27-nation EU, which began in 2005, have stalled in recent years over tensions between the two sides, with the EU accusing Turkey of moving away from the rule-of-law and other values on which the bloc is founded.

Relations between Turkey and the EU worsened sharply after the July 2016 attempted coup.

The EU has often criticized the crackdown and the attacks on freedom of speech which followed the failed putsch, in which tens of thousands of people have been arrested including journalists.

The EU and Turkey had agreed a deal in March 2016 worth billions of euros in which Turkey would take back migrants in exchange for visa liberalization, which has yet to be introduced for Turks.

EU heads of state and government are set to meet Wednesday in Brussels for a summit aimed at dealing with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

NATO is also to hold a crisis summit on Ukraine on Thursday.

The Turkish president has hosted talks in the last week and a half with four EU leaders and NATO.

An ally of Kyiv and NATO member, Turkey has been trying since the start of the Ukraine crisis to mediate between Russia and Ukraine while declining to line up behind Western sanctions against Russia.

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