German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday she would seek an end to Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union in an apparent shift of her position during a televised debate weeks before a German election.
During a television debate with her centre-left challenger Martin Schulz, Merkel said:
The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU
Her statement came after Schulz said he would stop Turkey’s bid to join the EU if he was elected chancellor.
“Apart from this, I’ll speak to my colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” Merkel added.
The comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the two NATO allies that have deepened since Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July of last year.
There was no immediate reaction from Turkey which is in the midst of a national religious holiday.
Merkel’s conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has long opposed Turkish membership in the European Union.
But the green light for membership talks was given months before Merkel became chancellor in 2005 and she has always said that she will respect that decision, referring to the negotiations as “open ended”.
The accession talks have ground to a virtual halt and EU leaders have stepped up their criticism of Erdogan.