German Premier Angela Merkel fears EU split on Turkey


German Chancellor Angela Merkel felt anxiety so that freezing Turkey's EU membership talks might cause a conflict between EU members state.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her European colleagues not to embroil in a public quarrel about future of Turkey's EU membership negotiations, but discuss it behind closed doors.

Speaking at a joint news conference with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Berlin on Friday, Merkel recalled that EU leaders were scheduled to discuss EU-Turkey ties at an upcoming summit on Oct. 19.

"First of all, we have proposed including Turkey as an agenda item at the upcoming European Council. And as I have said for several times, it is not worthwhile to engage in public quarrels, rather we should discuss it among each other," she said.

Merkel made the remarks in response to a question by a journalist, who asked whether France backed Germany's recent move to suspend or end Turkey's EU membership talks amid recent tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

Speaking after Merkel, French Prime Minister Philippe refrained from commenting on Germany's proposal. But he backed Merkel's position that the issue should be discussed at the European Council, and not in public.

French President Emmanuel Macron said early this month that Turkey was a vital partner of the EU and he advocated maintaining ties, despite current tensions.

The German Chancellor, who is running for a new term in upcoming elections on Sept. 24, came under enormous pressure from her rivals recently to sharpen its tone towards Turkey, due to recent political tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

She promised early this month to raise the possibility of suspending or ending Turkey's EU membership talks in discussions with her counterparts after the election.

Earlier, her main rival Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz called for immediately halting Ankara's EU membership talks and freezing its €4 billion ($4.68 billion) in pre-accession funds.

Despite Germany's move to adopt a harsher tone towards Turkey, so far only Austria has openly backed freezing Turkey's EU membership talks.

Any decision to terminate Turkey's membership talks would require unanimity among all EU member states which is seen as unlikely by diplomats as most member states were opposed to such calls earlier this year and insisted on maintaining dialogue with Ankara.

The EU can temporarily suspend negotiations with Turkey if a majority of its member states back such a proposal, which can be initiated by the European Commission or by one third of the member states.

Ties between Ankara and European capitals have been strained since the defeated coup attempt in Turkey last year as Turkish leaders slammed European countries for failing to show strong solidarity with the Turkish government against the attempted military coup.

Turkish politicians have also criticized Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and several other European countries for turning a blind eye to outlawed groups and terrorist organizations hostile to Turkey.

European officials, however, voiced concerns over the rule of law and human rights issues amid widespread investigations by Turkish authorities into the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which have orchestrated the defeated coup attempt.

The July 15, 2016 attempted military coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was orchestrated by the FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen.

Turkey accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Germany, which is home to three million Turkish immigrants, is among the countries where FETO has managed to organize a large network, including dozens of businesses, private schools, as well as media organizations.

The group, which is also known as Gulenists in the country, claims to have around 70,000 followers on German soil.

Despite repeated requests by Ankara to return FETO suspects to Turkey for trial, the German authorities have so far turned down such requests, arguing that Ankara must first provide sound legal evidence.

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