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EU to hold summit with Turkish leaders in coming months amid strained relations

European Union Council President Donald Tusk talks to the media at the end of a European Union Summit held at the EU Council building in Brussels on December 15, 2016. THIERRY CHARLIER / AFP

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said on Thursday that the heads of European Union institutions were given a mandate to plan a summit with Turkish leaders in the coming months in the midst of strained relations due to a government crackdown on dissent, a worsening of human rights situation and measures taken by Turkey’s government following a failed coup in July.

“We have a mandate to organize this kind of summit in the next months,” Tusk said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that no date had yet been set.

Underlining that Brussels still had much to discuss with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, Tusk said the EU would be represented by himself and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The European Union’s Turkey 2016 Report, released on Nov. 9, strongly criticized Turkey as a candidate country for backsliding in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights and for damage inflicted on the functioning of the judiciary and freedom of expression.

Following the release of the report, the European Parliament voted to suspend Turkey’s EU membership talks because of the Turkish government’s “disproportionate” response to a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Turkey’s EU accession talks began in 2005, but only one of the 35 policy areas — called “chapters” — has been closed. A country is ready to join the EU only when it has met the criteria in all 35 chapters.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has been accusing the EU of siding with “terrorism” rather than supporting Turkey since the coup attempt.

In a speech on Nov. 23, Erdoğan said the vote by the European Parliament on whether to halt EU membership talks with Ankara “has no value in our eyes” and again accused Europe of siding with terrorist organizations.

We have made clear time and again that we observe European values more than many EU countries, but we have not seen concrete support from our Western friends. … None of their promises were kept,” he told an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in İstanbul.

Since July 15, more than 115,000 people — including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders — have been detained or dismissed over their alleged backing for the putsch, in what opponents, rights groups and some Western allies say is an attempt to crush all dissent.

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