Fri Sep 8, 2017 06:54PM
Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik speaks during a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on September 8, 2017, during a meeting of EU defense ministers. (Photo by AFP)
Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik speaks during a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on September 8, 2017, during a meeting of EU defense ministers. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey's Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik says Brussels has been making a "child's game" out of Turkey’s accession negotiations.

Speaking after a meeting with EU foreign ministers in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Celik said, "This is not a children's game at all."

"You cannot talk about suspending or halting the accession negotiations and then restarting it in six months, and that Turkey is a great strategic and important country."

"This approach of 'I froze talks, now I restarted them' is not acceptable for us," the Turkish minister said.

Turkey has been working for accession to the EU since the late 1980s. Formal accession talks began in 2005. The European Union 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 were effectively halted after Turkey began a massive crackdown on those suspected of involvement in 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.

On September 3, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a TV debate ahead of Germany’s federal elections, agreed with her main rival Social Democrat Martin Schulz that it was “clear that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union,” marking a surprise U-turn from her previous moderate stance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves during an election campaign rally in Mainz, Germany, on September 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Germany has been involved in diplomatic brawls with Turkey on several issues, including the country's human rights record.

Many EU ministers in Tallinn highlighted the vital role Turkey, a NATO ally, played in curbing the flow of refugees into the EU area.

Some EU states, including Austria and Luxembourg, backed Merkel’s statement of suspending the talks with Turkey while most of the countries, including Hungary, Lithuania and Britain, held the opposite view.

"All European countries, including the UK, have concerns, serious concerns about human rights in Turkey, about arrests... (and) the treatment of journalists," British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson told reporters.

"But it's always been my view that we shouldn't push Turkey away. Turkey is a great country and a strategically important country for all of us."

EU leaders are expected to discuss the issue of the suspension of the accession talks in Brussels next month.