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Austrian Chancellor suggests ending EU accession talks with Turkey

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern attends a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Lazslo Balogh

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on Wednesday that he would start a discussion among European heads of government to quit talks with Turkey about joining the European Union because of the country’s democratic and economic deficits.

European leaders have voiced concern over Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected dissidents after a failed coup attempt month, identifying his idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey as a red line barring accession to the EU.

Kern sharpened the critical rhetoric in an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF.

“We are all well advised to now say we’re pressing the reset button,” he said, calling accession talks a “diplomatic fiction”.

“We know that the democratic standards are clearly not sufficient to justify (Turkey’s) accession ... The economic question is at least just as significant because the Turkish economy is too far from the European average.”

When asked whether Austria will table a proposal to stop accession talks at a European council meeting on Sept. 16, Kern said Austria would “start a discussion about this. We will ask for an alternative concept.”

Reporting By Shadia Nasralla, editing by Larry King