Turkey welcomes opening of new EU membership talks

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday hailed the European Union decision to reopen accession talks with Ankara despite opposition from some member states including Germany.

“Chapter 22 has been opened. This matter is over,” Davutoglu said in televised remarks which came after the EU had agreed to resume membership negotiations with Ankara after a three-year break.

Davutoglu said the latest move signaled that an obstacle hampering Turkish-EU relations had been overcome.

Germany, backed by Austria and the Netherlands, had opposed a plan to reopen Turkey-EU membership negotiations in Brussels on Wednesday.

That triggered tension between Ankara and Berlin, with sharp words exchanged and each calling in the other’s ambassador for explanations.

The crisis erupted after the clashes in Turkey between police and anti-government demonstrators that left four people dead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shocked” by the government’s handling of the crisis, referring to the brutal police action to disperse demonstrating crowds across Turkey who complained of the government’s increasingly conservative and authoritarian policies.

At stake for Turkey was an EU plan to open a new policy chapter or policy area in the predominantly Muslim country's eight-year negotiation process to win membership of the bloc.

Turkey began accession talks in 2005 but so far has closed with the EU only one out of 35 chapters every candidate state needs to complete for entry into the bloc.

Reopening Turkey’s long-stalled bid for membership by discussing Chapter 22 on regional policy requires unanimity between the 27 member states.

In a separate statement, the Turkish foreign ministry welcomed the EU decision as a “step taken in the right direction” but still deemed it “inadequate.”

The ministry vowed Ankara would proceed on its road for full membership “with determination despite all obstacles,” calling on member states to stick to the pacta sund servanda principle (agreements must be kept).

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