DOHA (Reuters) - Germany and Turkey’s foreign ministers met on Saturday for an “intensive exchange of opinions” in a row over Angela Merkel’s criticism of a crackdown on protesters in Turkey and her reluctance to see the country join the European Union.
Germany and Turkey on Friday summoned each other’s ambassadors for a tit-for-tat reproaches after Merkel said she was “appalled” by Ankara’s response to the protests, and a Turkish cabinet minister accused her of blocking Turkey’s accession to the EU because she was “looking for domestic political material for her elections”.
Barring a last-minute change of heart by Germany, the EU looks set early next week to postpone or cancel plans to open a new “chapter” in Turkey’s membership talks next Wednesday.
Such a move would cast doubt on the future of Turkey’s long-running negotiations to join the EU and a senior Turkish official has said it would draw a “strong reaction” from Ankara.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday Guido Westerwelle met Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of a meeting in Doha, Qatar, over the war in Syria.
“The talks took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere,” the ministry said. “Both ministers had an intensive exchange of opinions in the spirit of partners and friends about pending issues, also actual questions of relations between the EU and Turkey and bilateral relations.”
In Ankara, German Ambassador Eberhard Pohl held talks on Saturday at the Foreign Ministry with Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, a ministry official said.
Many EU countries support the opening of more negotiations with Turkey next week on its long path to membership. They argue that Turkey’s fast-growing economy, youthful population and diplomatic clout would bolster the EU.
As the tension between Berlin and Ankara increased this week, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said it was not the moment to close the door on Turkey, but she made no direct reference to Germany.
Germany has criticized Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s forceful response to weeks of anti-government protests and appears to be refusing to agree to open a new negotiation area, potentially the first such step in three years.
Merkel’s conservatives oppose Turkish EU membership in their platform for September’s election, saying it would “overburden” the bloc because of the country’s size and economy, though Merkel has stopped short of calling a halt to accession talks.
Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Additional reporting by Gulsen Solaker in Ankara and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Alison Williams