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Erdoğan spokesman: Merkel’s remarks ‘unfortunate,’ made for political gain

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın has responded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks on not expanding a customs union between Turkey and the European Union and said they were “unfortunate” and made only because of the upcoming German elections.

Kalın’s remarks came after Merkel said on Wednesday that the EU cannot continue expanding the customs union with Turkey unless tensions with Turkey ease and underlined that there would be “no kind of deepening at all” in Turkey-EU ties.

Criticizing Germany for giving orders to EU institutions as an EU member, Kalın said: “The customs union agreement was signed based on a win-win principle. Here, we are referring to a relationship that ensures gain for both Turkey and European countries. When this is prevented, postponed or cancelled, not only Turkey but also European countries will be damaged by that.”

Kalın called Merkel’s remarks “unfortunate” and said such anti-Turkey statements were made because of the approaching elections in Germany.

“It is problematic to classify Turkey as 50 percent here 50 percent there. If we did a similar analysis for Germany, what would the reaction of Ms. Merkel be? She would not appreciate it herself if we said people who are not voting for her have expectations from us. We are not taking it very seriously,” added Kalın during a press conference.

Turkish EU Minister Çelik also criticized Merkel for making statements which, he said, are harming the credibility of the EU and added: “This is an unfortunate statement. We should emphasize that no EU member should give orders to EU institutions or regarding EU processes.”

The German government asked the European Commission to suspend preparatory work on negotiations with Turkey for modernizing the EU-Turkey customs union because it would send the “wrong signal” to Turkey in light of recent events.

“We will not exert extra efforts to continue the customs union agreement with Turkey,” added Merkel.

Ankara’s relations with Berlin have been strained since Turkey’s crackdown on opposition groups, including journalists and human rights defenders, after a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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