European Union, Turkey Avoid Rupture in Relations

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 6/25/2013, 10:15 a.m.
The European Union avoided a rupture of relations with Turkey by agreeing to open a new round of membership negotiations ...
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By Ivan Watson

CNN

The European Union avoided a rupture of relations with Turkey by agreeing to open a new round of membership negotiations with the Turkish government.

But the date for the next round of talks on the nation joining the EU will be determined only after publication of an annual progress report on Turkey.

The decision was reached after several long rounds of talks last weekend between the foreign ministers of Germany and Turkey. Germany had threatened to block Turkish membership negotiations after more than three weeks of riots in Turkey during which riot police repeatedly attacked anti-government demonstrators with tear gas and pepper spray.

Turkey's foreign minister welcomed Tuesday's decision by the EU.

"I hope we will not go through such a crisis again," Ahmet Davutoglu said in remarks to journalists in Ankara. "The Turkey-EU train will move to reach its target in the quickest way."

"Compromise (is a) good decision in difficult times," the German Embassy in Ankara said on Twitter, citing German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Turkey has been pursuing membership in the European Union for more than half a century.

But while Turkey's top diplomat was embracing international rapprochement with Europe, the Turkish prime minister was delivering a speech warning of a shadowy foreign conspiracy aimed at toppling him from power.

Speaking before members of his political party in the Turkish parliament, Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his claims that the protests against him were being organized by the same "center" that he alleged organized recent riots in Brazil.

"There are many similarities between what is going on in Brazil and here," he said. "... The button that was pushed to activate the riots in both countries was pushed from the same center."

Erdogan vowed to prosecute hotels that sheltered protesters during clashes with police. He also criticized a female journalist from the British Broadcasting Corporation's Turkish service, who became the target of an online smear campaign by the mayor of Ankara last Sunday.

Ibrahim Melih Gokcek, an elected mayor from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, launched a hashtag campaign on Twitter accusing the BBC's Selin Girit of being a British spy.

The BBC issued a statement on Monday expressing concern about what it described as Turkish government threats against a BBC employee.

Monday night, U.S. president Barack Obama held a telephone call with Erdogan, a close Middle Eastern ally who received a warm reception during a visit to the White House last month.

The two leaders discussed providing additional support to rebels battling the government in neighboring Syria.

According to a White House statement, Erdogan and Obama also discussed "the importance of nonviolence and of the rights to free expression and assembly and a free press."

On Tuesday, Turkish police detained at least 20 people in Ankara. Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian Agency reported they were accused of being members of a terrorist organization, attacking police and destroying public property.

Meanwhile, the family of Ethem Sarisuluk, a protester who died in a hospital after being shot by a police officer earlier this month in Ankara, said they were "devastated" after a court released the suspected shooter on Monday.