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Merkel's potential partners divided over Turkey

MERKELS POTENTIAL PARTNERS DIVIDED OVER TURKEY

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's potential coalition partners, the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens, have brought conflicting proposals on future ties between the EU and Turkey, days ahead of exploratory talks between the parties.

The FDP has called for ending Turkey's EU membership talks, but proposed an alternative model of a "positive agenda" for close cooperation between the EU and Turkey.

"Given the current direction of Turkish domestic politics, we cannot see membership of Turkey in the EU for the time being," Michael Link, Germany's former deputy foreign minister told Anadolu Agency.

The senior FDP lawmaker argued that Turkey's EU process had already been de facto on hold for a long period.

"Of course what happens in the long run is open. But right now, we think it is better to end the negotiation process," he said.

Link said his party still wanted to see close cooperation between the EU and Turkey, under a new mechanism called a "positive agenda", taking into account of interests of both sides.

"The EU and Turkey can work together as closely as possible in various areas, such as migration, visa issues, energy, security and the Customs Union," he said.

But the Greens, Merkel's likely coalition partner along with the FDP, has clearly opposed ending Turkey's EU membership process.

"Any decision to completely terminate Turkey's EU membership talks would be a wrong message for the pro-European and democratic actors in Turkey," Green lawmaker and foreign affairs spokesman Omid Nouripour told Anadolu Agency.

"For a democratic and liberal-minded Turkey, the EU's doors must remain open to Turkey," he stressed.

However, Nouripour underlined that their support for opening new chapters in Turkey's EU talks would depend on steps by Ankara on issues of democracy and the rule of law.

He also recalled their expectation for the release of German citizens arrested in Turkey, as part of recent anti-terrorism investigations.

Strained ties

Ties between Turkey and Germany have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders heavily criticized their German counterparts for turning a blind eye to outlawed groups and terrorist organizations which use the country as a platform.

German politicians on the other hand criticized Ankara over the arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including a reporter and a human right activist, on suspicion of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.

Turkish officials have repeatedly underlined the independence of judiciary in Turkey and ruled out any political influence by the government with regards to the cases involving German citizens.

Merkel faces tough coalition talks

Merkel came under enormous pressure from her rivals ahead of the Sept. 24 elections to sharpen her tone towards Turkey, but she opposed calls to take harsh measures, and underlined importance of maintaining dialogue with Ankara.

Her Christian Democrat bloc is facing tough talks on forming a government after the election, as potential coalition partners differ on major issues such as European policy, migration, energy and tax.

Merkel said exploratory talks on forming a coalition government would begin on Oct. 18, with the CDU/CSU bloc holding separate discussions with the FDP and the Greens.

She said they are planning to hold a joint meeting with top officials of the four parties on Oct. 20.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been excluded by Merkel from any discussions.

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