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Merkel does not see EU expanding membership talks with Turkey – source

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told lawmakers in her conservative bloc that she does not expect the European Union to open negotiations on new policy areas with Turkey in its talks to join the bloc, a source told Reuters.

Turkish accession talks began in 2005 but have made slow progress. Merkel has repeatedly said the EU, which needs Ankara to help tackle the migrant crisis, must continue to engage with Turkey.

Bild newspaper ran a story under a headline that said Merkel opposed further EU talks with the fellow NATO member and reported that this meant discussions were effectively over.

However, one conservative parliamentary source said the chancellor had rather re-stated her position in response to a question at a meeting of lawmakers.

“She said that at the moment no further negotiating chapters would be opened in any case and in addition, from her point of view, there was no need for action,” said the source.

“It was a statement rather than an initiative. She was responding to a question from a lawmaker about what they should say about Turkey in constituencies,” said the source.

Neither Ankara nor the EU expect Turkey to be in a position to join the EU for many years to come. Only one of 35 “chapters”, or policy areas where Turkey must adopt EU rules, have so far been concluded. Fifteen chapters are open.

The European Parliament passed a non-binding motion last week urging the Commission and national governments to call a temporary halt to membership talks with Turkey due to Ankara’s “disproportionate” reaction to July’s failed coup.

However, EU governments are unlikely to take heed. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his country has not yet “closed the book” on the EU but said Ankara had other options with other partners.

EU leaders are due to discuss Turkey again when they meet in Brussels at a summit on December 15-16. Germany and other EU states have expressed concern about Erdogan’s crackdown since a failed coup in July and critics say it is an attempt to crush dissent.

Authorities have detained or dismissed more than 125,000 people – including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders – over alleged backing for the coup attempt.

Turkey still hopes to win visa-free travel for its citizens to the EU as part of an EU deal, in return for help in keeping migrants away from Europe, although the chances of it winning that right by the end of this year seem distant. As part of the EU migrant pact, Brussels agreed to reinvigorate accession talks. Erdogan has suggested he might scrap that deal.

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