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Turkey unhappy over ‘unfortunate’ Merkel statement

German leader's hard line on updating Turkey-EU customs deal meets criticism in Ankara
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Turkey’s EU minister has warned that recent differences between Ankara and Berlin over a customs deal should not be allowed to become a Turkey-EU problem.

No country is entitled to instruct wider EU institutions, Omer Celik said on Thursday, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent statement on suspending Turkey-EU talks about updating a customs union deal.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with British Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan on Thursday, Celik described Merkel’s Wednesday statement as “unfortunate”.

On Wednesday, in an interview with young video bloggers ahead of elections in Germany next month, Merkel signaled that the EU would not enter into talks with Ankara on modernizing an existing customs union, due to recent political tensions.

Turkey has had a customs union agreement with the EU since 1995, and updating it has been a key priority of the Turkish government.

However, Celik warned against allowing a bilateral dispute to become a wider problem. “EU resolutions are determined by principles,” Celik added.

He also warned against individual European leaders making decisions “against the basic mechanisms of the EU”.

Merkel’s remarks came after opposition parties increased pressure on the German government, seeking a harsher tone against Turkey, particularly due to the recent arrests in Turkey of around 10 German citizens, including a reporter and a human rights activist, for alleged support for terrorist organizations.

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Duncan said during his two-day official visit he had viewed the damage sustained by Turkey’s parliament building during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

This week’s visit has been the British minister’s fifth to Turkey since the attempted putsch.

“Once again, the United Kingdom is understanding of the difficulties you went through during the [coup] attempt and the steps that need to be taken… to restore security,” Duncan said.

“If this happened in the United Kingdom, it’s the equivalent to a regiment of the army marching down Whitehall, shooting people on Westminster Bridge, trying to kill the Queen and the prime minister, bombing parliament and taking over the BBC,” Duncan said.

Voicing sadness over the recent failed Cyprus peace talks in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the British minister praised Turkey’s contribution and “highly positive” attitude in trying to resolve the long-running conflict.

Duncan also spoke about anti-Muslim hate crime in Europe and drew attention to the three-million-strong Muslim population in the U.K., condemning “any racist and hateful” attacks on the community.

“They are a full and important part of our community and life in the country,” he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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