Turkey has a long way to go before EU membership: Merkel

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Turkey still has a long way to go in its bid to become a full member of the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated in a weekly Q&A video exchange published on Jan. 16.

“The negotiations are open-ended for both sides. We have opened a new chapter in this process and new chapters are possible too. There is a long way ahead, but I see the frequent meetings as positive. I am also hoping to see progress in the Cyprus issue in the next few months,” Merkel said, responding to a question on whether Turkey should expect to be an EU member state within 10 years.

She added that it was “not realistic” to give a time frame at the moment.

Merkel’s remarks came ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s official visit to Germany for a Turkey-Germany High-Level Cooperation Council meeting on Jan. 22.

The German chancellor also said this week’s meeting was independent from the Jan. 12 terror attack in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet neighborhood, which killed 10 German citizens.

“We must not let the terrorists change our agenda,” Merkel said, stressing that the meeting was scheduled long before the Sultanahmet attack.

On whether Ankara will receive any financial aid other than the 3 billion euros recently agreed as a fund to help keep refugees from Syria in Turkey, Merkel said the current arrangement was a “good start.”

“We want to fix the refugees’ situation. Turkey has opened its doors to 2.5 million refugees, 900,000 of whom are children who need a proper education. Turkey has so far received very limited assistance on this issue,” she said.

“It is also for Europe’s benefit that these people are in a good condition and do not want to leave Turkey. So this is a good start and we will see how it will continue,” she added, stressing that Germany was working for peace in Syria so people can eventually return home.

“The refugees will not always live in Turkey. Maybe we can give them their country back. This would be the best outcome for them.” Merkel said.

Meanwhile, the German chancellor said the Kurdish issue and the issue of press freedom would also be on the agenda of her meeting with Davutoğlu and a team of minister from both sides.

“We were pleased with Turkey’s peace negotiations with the Kurds in the past, and we always say that military operations should be proportional. In the meeting we want to discuss what can be done politically. Of course Turkey should take precautions against the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK’s terrorist operations, but the Kurds should also be given a reasonable chance,” Merkel added.

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