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Accession of Turkey to the European Union


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for the first time since the July 15 attempted coup.

Russia is ready to restore economic co-operation and other ties with Turkey, President Vladimir Putin has announced in St. Petersburg.

It is also President Erdogan’s first foreign visit since an attempted coup last month.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked Vladimir Putin, saying “your call straight after the coup attempt was very welcome”.

Russian-Turkish relations soured last November when Turkey shot down a Russian bomber on the Syrian border.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit comes as Turkey’s ties with the West have cooled over criticism of the purge of alleged coup-plotters.

Before leaving Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to Vladimir Putin as his “friend” and said he wanted to open a new page in relations with Russia.

“This visit strikes me as a new milestone in our bilateral relations, starting again from a clean slate,” he told Russia’s Tass news agency.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

Vladimir Putin said their talks would cover “the whole range of our relations… including restoring economic ties, combating terrorism”.

After Turkey shot down the Su-24 jet Russia imposed trade sanctions and suspended Russian package tours to Turkey.

In June, the Kremlin said Recep Tayyip Erdogan had apologized for the downing of the jet and had sent a message expressing “sympathy and deep condolences” to the family of the dead pilot.

Then, after the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, Vladimir Putin expressed support for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He did not criticize President Erdogan’s crackdown on political opponents and purge of alleged “plotters” in state institutions.

Turkey’s ties with its NATO allies – especially the US – have been strained by disagreements over the Syrian civil war. Turkey’s priority is to weaken the Kurdish separatist forces, while the US is focusing on destroying ISIS.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was angered by criticism from the EU and the US of the mass detentions of suspected plotters. He demanded that the US extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of organizing the coup. But the United States says Turkey must provide solid evidence before such a move can be considered.

Turkey’s Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdag, says more than 26,000 people have been detained after the attempted coup.

They back opposing sides in Syria. Turkey is furious at the scale of Russian air support for Syrian government forces, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviles Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has accused Turkey of backing Islamist anti-Assad groups, including some accused of “terrorism” in Russia.

Turkey is at war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the PKK’s Syrian allies. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Russia of arming the PKK.

For centuries Russia and Turkey have been rivals for influence in the Caucasus and Black Sea region.

Turkey was also angered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, accusing Moscow of violating the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Muslim Tatars have long had close ties to Turkey.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Brussels for talks on Turkey’s EU membership bid, amid EU concerns over a purge of senior Turkish officials.

The negotiations are beset by problems.

EU politicians have voiced concern about the state of Turkey’s democracy, including the independence of its courts and media freedom.

Several of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s allies have been arrested over a corruption scandal. He blamed a “foreign plot” and sacked prosecutors and police chiefs.

The scandal has pitted Recep Tayyip Erdogan against a former ally, US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, who has many supporters in the police and judiciary.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Brussels is his first in five years.

He will meet European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs EU summits, and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Turkey’s accession talks resumed in November, after being suspended for nearly three-and-a-half years. The negotiations were launched in 2005.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Brussels for talks on Turkey's EU membership bid

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Brussels for talks on Turkey’s EU membership bid

However, several EU countries, notably Germany, France and Austria, have deep reservations about Turkey joining the EU. Critics believe it is culturally far-removed from Europe, and that because of its sheer size it could change the nature of the EU.

Supporters say it would be a dynamic addition to the bloc.

There are 35 policy areas, or chapters, in which candidate-states must meet EU standards in order to join the 28-member bloc. So far Turkey and the EU have only opened 14 chapters, and just one has been provisionally closed.

Eight chapters remain frozen because of a long-running trade dispute between Turkey and Cyprus.

The EU’s 2013 progress report on Turkey criticized “excessive force” used by police against demonstrators, along with other human rights violations.

Last week Turkey adopted a law making it a crime for doctors to provide emergency first aid without government authorization.

Some medical professionals see it as a tool to prevent doctors and other medics from treating protesters injured in clashes with police. The US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) says action was taken against medics during anti-government protests last June.

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The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey.

The European affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg said the talks would restart on November 5th, after being stalled for three years.

The EU had first agreed to re-launch negotiations in June, but postponed the talks after members criticized Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests.

Turkey first applied for full membership of what was then the European Economic Community in 1987.

The ministers of the 28 EU members based their latest decision on a recommendation by the European Commission.

In its 2013 progress report on Turkey published last week, the Commission had criticized as excessive the use of force by Turkish police in dealing with widespread demonstrations.

The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey

The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey

But it recognized that Turkey had introduced judicial reforms. It also praised the announcement last month by PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a series of political reforms, including increased rights for Kurds.

Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister of Lithuania, which currently holds the EU presidency, congratulated Turkey on the resumption of the negotiating process, which he said was overdue.

“Time to catch up!” he tweeted on Lithuania’s official EU presidency site.

Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (then the European Economic Community) since 1963.

Turkey met the last condition for accession talks in 2005, but negotiations have stalled over a range of issues, including concern over freedom of speech and democracy, treatment of religious minorities, judicial reform, and ongoing tensions with Cyprus, an EU member.

During that time Ankara has watched other countries overtake Turkey in the queue for membership.

Croatia became a full member of the EU in July, while Serbia achieved official candidate status earlier this year.