BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey on Thursday to answer questions raised by European observers over a referendum that expanded President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers and also said the EU must reflect on what future ties it wants with Ankara.
A report by observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe found that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which ended in a narrow victory for Erdogan’s push for greater powers.
“The Turkish government must measure itself based on this report and answer the questions raised in it,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. “We will very carefully follow how Turkey deals with reports of possible irregularities.”
Merkel also said the referendum had weighed on Turkey’s relationship with the European Union and Germany. Erdogan infuriated Berlin during the referendum campaign by comparing a decision to ban some rallies on German soil to the Nazi era.
Some German conservative politicians have called on the EU to end talks with Turkey about membership of the bloc, saying that failing to draw consequences after the referendum vote would hurt Europe.
Merkel later told broadcaster NDR it was important to maintain dialogue with Turkey, given common security interests, and that the EU must forge a joint position on future ties.
“The time has come to talk very intensively about the relationship between the European Union and Turkey, but we must do that first among the 28 European Union members,” Merkel said.
“We have to be smart and clear,” she added.
Turkey, a mainly Muslim country of nearly 80 million people, began formal EU accession talks in 2005 but they have come to a virtual standstill amid disagreements over human rights, the rule of law, Cyprus and other issues.
Reporting by Paul Carrel and Madeline Chambers; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Gareth Jones