Mark Rutte Dutch to seek EU nod for freeze on Turkey talks

Turkey and the EU had agreed to speed up the long-stalled membership talks after both sides reached a deal.

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Turkey formally applied to become a member of the European Union in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005 play

Turkey formally applied to become a member of the European Union in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005

(AFP/File)
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The Dutch government will seek EU support to temporarily freeze accession talks with Turkey, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday, in a move set to ratchet up tensions between Ankara and Brussels.

"We are going to see whether there's support in Europe... to suspend talks for half a year," Rutte said at his weekly press conference.

Turkey and the EU had agreed to speed up the long-stalled membership talks after both sides reached a deal in March to curb the flow of migrants into the European Union.

But the process has stalled after a failed coup in July by a rogue military faction was followed by a crackdown that saw some 37,000 arrests.

Rutte on Friday reiterated his Foreign Minister Bert Koenders' statement earlier this week, who said the accession talks were "comatose".

Koenders' comments come after Dutch lawmakers on Wednesday voted by majority for a temporary freeze of the talks, the public broadcaster NOS reported.

The top Dutch diplomat "was not in favour of a suspension of the talks but caved in after pressure from lawmakers, saying he would now take the temperature among other European partners," the NOS said.

The latest call follows a non-binding vote in the European Parliament last week when parliamentarians overwhelmingly voted in favour of suspending the talks.

That vote infuriated Ankara, which immediately labelled it as "insignificant and worthless".

Most EU states want to keep the Turkey talks on track -- but the leaders of the EU's 28 nations have a final say on Turkey's bid join the bloc.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has meanwhile threatened to retaliate by rupturing the March deal that sharply reduced the flow of migrants to Europe.

Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005, even though Ankara's aspirations to become part of the bloc date back to the 1960s.

Erdogan on Tuesday said his country has not yet given up on its ambition to join the EU, but has "many other alternatives" if the stalled process goes nowhere.

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