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Turkey slams 'hypocritical' EU report on accession talks

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey accused the European Union on Wednesday of hypocrisy and inconsistency in a report that says Ankara is “moving further away” from the bloc and its membership bid is at a standstill.

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The report, endorsed by EU ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, came two days after President Tayyip Erdogan won a fresh five-year term, and with it sweeping new executive powers under a constitutional overhaul.

The EU, concerned that Turkey is moving towards one-man rule, has not congratulated Erdogan on his victory, though the leaders of some member states including Germany and France have done so. The EU’s executive Commission said on Monday it hoped Turkey would remain a committed partner.

In a statement, the EU General Affairs Council said Brussels could not open any more ‘chapters’ or policy areas in accession talks or modernise the EU-Turkey customs union due to Ankara’s failure to meet European standards in various areas.

This prompted an angry response from Ankara, which says EU membership remains a strategic goal despite a big deterioration in ties, especially since a failed military coup in 2016 prompted what Erdogan’s critics see as a crackdown on dissent.

“The EU’s unjust and dishonest treatment of Turkey can be seen once again,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is hypocritical and inconsistent to argue that it is our country that moves away from the (accession) process despite the EU’s stance,” it said.

Ankara, whose EU negotiations began in 2005, has long complained about what it sees as European double standards. Some member states such as Austria openly oppose ever admitting Turkey, a large, mainly Muslim nation of 81 million people.

Turkey also says the EU has failed to uphold promises made in a March 2016 accord whereby Ankara agreed to curb the number of illegal migrants crossing from its territory to Europe.

Turkey has cut the number to a trickle but the EU has still to deliver on its promises to allow Turks visa-free travel to the bloc and provide substantial financial aid for some 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey.

In their report, the EU ministers said the “constructive cooperation” of Turkey had delivered “clear results” but made no new commitment on implementing the bloc’s pledges.

“With these conclusions, the EU declares it will not honour its commitments in the March 18 (2016) statement,” Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik tweeted in response.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Gareth Jones