By Agence France-Presse
EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in an effort to rebuild ties amid tensions over Turkey’s EU accession and human rights.
Juncker, who heads the European Commission, and Tusk, who heads the European Council of 28 EU member state leaders, met the Turkish leader ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels.
Tusk greeted Erdogan at EU headquarters, but neither men spoke during a brief and cordial handshake for photographers.
“EU and Turkey must and will work together,” a spokesman for Juncker said in a tweet as talks began.
In heated remarks, Erdogan on the eve of the meeting said it was up to Brussels to decide if it wanted Turkey as a member of the bloc.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for Brussels, Erdogan said Turkey was not prepared to behave like a “beggar” to gain membership.
Relations between the bloc and Ankara soured after a failed coup attempt in July, and worsened further during the campaign for the April 16 referendum on strengthening Erdogan’s powers.
In the run-up to the referendum — which he narrowly won — Erdogan had mooted reimposing the death penalty in Turkey, a move that would automatically end its EU bid.
Earlier this month, Erdogan told Brussels it had no other option than to open new “chapters”, or policy areas, in Turkey’s long-stalled accession talks which began in 2005.
Most EU states — led by Germany — officially oppose freezing accession talks with Turkey with only Austria openly backing a halt to the membership process.
This prompted Turkey to veto all NATO cooperation with neutral Austria, although the crisis was partially resolved with a deal on Tuesday.
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