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Turkish minister blasts EU body for vote on membership talks

Associated Press Associated Press 24/11/2016 By RAF CASERT, Associated Press
In this Oct. 29, 2016 file photo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, follows a military honour guard walking to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey. Since quashing a July coup attempt, Turkey’s president has used extraordinary powers from a state of emergency to arrest and purge thousands of opponents. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also vowed to back public demands to reinstate the death penalty and suggested submitting Turkey's long-sought goal of European Union membership to a referendum. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici/File) © The Associated Press In this Oct. 29, 2016 file photo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, follows a military honour guard walking to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey. Since quashing a July coup attempt, Turkey’s president has used extraordinary powers from a state of emergency to arrest and purge thousands of opponents. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also vowed to back public demands to reinstate the death penalty and suggested submitting Turkey's long-sought goal of European Union membership to a referendum. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici/File)

BRUSSELS — Underscoring growing unease, the European Union's legislature on Thursday demanded that the bloc freeze membership negotiations with Turkey over the government's heavy-handed crackdown following a failed coup in July.

The European Parliament voted 479-37 margin with 107 abstentions to approve a non-binding resolution that seeks "to initiate a temporary freeze" on talks with Ankara until "disproportionate measures under the state of emergency in Turkey are lifted."

Despite the parliamentary vote, EU officials have said that the longstanding but unsuccessful talks on having Turkey join the EU should not immediately be halted.

Some EU nations have called for the suspension of the talks, but the 28-member bloc is struggling to develop a position that would balance concerns about rights abuses with the need for Ankara's help in preventing refugees and migrants from reaching Europe.

"By continuing the illusion of accession talks with an increasingly authoritarian regime, the EU is losing credibility, is fooling our citizens, and also betraying those Turkish citizens who look to Europe as their future," said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Anticipating the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already said that his country's "struggle for its stability and future won't be interrupted by (European legislators) raising and lowering their hands."

The minister in charge of Turkey's negotiations with the EU condemned the resolution after the vote, calling it unnecessary and a measure "that can't be taken seriously."

Speaking at a news conference in southern Turkey where a car bomb killed two people Thursday, Minister for European Union Affairs Omer Celik accused the EU of supporting Kurdish militants and applying a double standard when it comes to his country.

"Groups that remain silent as Europe is besieged by the extreme right and xenophobia are trying today to give Turkey a message," Celik said.

Although the vote carries no immediate consequences, it underscores the increasing unease in Europe over Erdogan's tightening grip on power in the wake of the coup attempt.

Tens of thousands of people, including teachers, journalists and opposition lawmakers, have been arrested or fired. As reports of more detentions and repression came in, the EU's stance has steadily hardened.

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Cinar Kiper contributed reporting from Istanbul.

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