German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to push EU members to consider suspending or ending Turkey’s accession talks, saying Ankara has been abandoning the rule of law.
"Turkey is moving away from the path of the rule of law at a very fast speed," Merkel said in a Tuesday televised debate with her Social Democrat (SPD) election rival before the Bundestag lower house of parliament in Berlin.
"We will also - and I will suggest this takes place at the EU meeting in October - discuss future relations with Turkey, including the question of suspending or ending talks on accession," she said.
"I will push for a decisive stand ... But we need to coordinate and work with our partners," the chancellor pointed out.
Merkel also underlined her government’s determination to do everything in its power to secure the release of 12 Germans citizens detained in Turkey on political charges, whom Berlin says are innocent.
German-Turkish relations strained after Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit military personnel at the Incirlik Air Base and another base in Konya in Turkey earlier this year.
Berlin had earlier blocked visits and speeches by senior Turkish officials to members of the Turkish diaspora in Germany ahead of an April referendum in Turkey over the constitutional reforms.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently urged the Turkish population in Germany to vote against Merkel in the upcoming German elections.
Separately, Turkey says Germany has granted asylum to officers who were allegedly behind the 2016 failed coup in the country.
The German Foreign Ministry updated its travel advice on Tuesday, warning of "incomprehensible" arrests across Turkey, including in the country’s tourism regions.
Merkel’s remarks came a day after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc will continue its membership talks with Turkey despite disagreements with Ankara on human rights issues.
Turkey has been trying to accede to the EU since the late 1980s. Formal accession talks began in 2005. The EU has opened 16 out of the 35 chapters required for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc, but only one of them has so far been concluded.
The talks have effectively been halted since Turkey began a massive crackdown on supposed putschists following an abortive coup in 2016. The EU reacted strongly to Ankara’s purging of thousands of people from organizations and institutions over alleged links to the coup attempt.
The European Parliament voted in favor of halting the membership talks with Turkey in November 2016 over Ankara’s heavy-handed crackdown following the failed coup.