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Erdogan: European Parliament vote on Turkey has 'no value'

Associated Press Associated Press 23/11/2016 By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses an annual economy and trade meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Erdogan declared Wednesday that an upcoming vote in the European Parliament on whether to freeze membership talks with Turkey is of "no value" to his country. (Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service,/Pool Photo via AP) © The Associated Press Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses an annual economy and trade meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Erdogan declared Wednesday that an upcoming vote in the European Parliament on whether to freeze membership talks with Turkey is of "no value" to his country. (Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service,/Pool Photo via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's president declared Wednesday that an upcoming vote in the European Parliament on whether to freeze membership talks with Turkey is of "no value" to his country.

European Union legislators are scheduled to hold a non-binding vote this week on whether Turkey's accession talks should be suspended over the Turkish government's unprecedented crackdown following the failed military coup in July.

EU nations have voiced serious concern over the post-coup clampdown, which has resulted in mass purges from government jobs for alleged ties to a U.S.-based cleric blamed for the coup, in the arrests of journalists and pro-Kurdish politicians and the closure of hundreds of media outlets and civil society organizations.

Some EU nations have called on the suspension of Turkey's membership talks but the bloc is struggling to reach a common stance that would balance their need for Ankara's continued help to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees heading to Europe with their concerns about rights abuses.

Addressing an annual economy and trade meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "Let me say this in advance... Whatever the result is, in our eyes this vote has no value."

"This country's struggle for its stability and future won't be interrupted by (European legislators') raising and lowering their hands," Erdogan said. "This nation has shown the world (during the failed coup attempt) that it is not a fair-weather democrat and that it will risk its life for its rights, its freedoms and its honor."

The Turkish leader frequently accuses the EU of applying "double standards" and throwing hurdles to block Turkey's EU membership bid. He has also accused several EU countries of backing Kurdish militants and other violent groups operating in Turkey.

Erdogan has suggested that Turkey could hold a referendum on the future of Turkey's EU negotiations and that his country could join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia and China, as an alternative to the EU.

On Wednesday, Erdogan called on countries of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation to stand up to the West where, he said, Muslims were being confronted with "double standards, prejudice, alienation" and were being attacked.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it is important to keep open channels of communication with Turkey, but that can't be an obstacle to criticizing "alarming events" in the country.

She also pushed back anew against accusations by Turkey that Germany harbors wanted Kurdish militants. The German government, she said in a speech in parliament, acts against "every form of terrorism" and authorities have opened proceedings against alleged PKK members in over 4,000 cases.

She noted, however, that "our state of law reaches verdicts that politicians can't influence, and these verdicts have to be accepted."

"We have an interest in cooperating with Turkey in a sensible way, but that doesn't rule out addressing clearly what is alarming," Merkel said.

She didn't comment specifically on the EU membership talks.

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Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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