Turkey crackdown has no direct bearing on joining EU: Germany
Berlin: Germany said Friday that Turkey`s recent crackdown on protesters had no direct bearing on Ankara`s negotiations to join the European Union.
"There is no direct link between the events in Turkey and the technical process of accession negotiations of the country to the EU," foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular government news conference.
The negotiations are currently focused on "the opening of the chapter concerning regional politics", said Peschke, adding that talks could "go on for some time".
Berlin appeared to have soften its stance on Turkey`s crackdown on demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Istanbul and Ankara in two weeks of massive protests.
On Wednesday, a source close to the German government had said that there was now greater scepticism on moving forward with accession talks with Turkey.
"It appears that that would not be possible," the source had told AFP.
On Friday, Peschke said Berlin would "continue to follow the development of domestic politics" in Turkey.
He added that during an "extensive" telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had expressed hopes that the situation in Turkey would deescalate.
The protests were sparked by plans to redevelop an Istanbul park but ballooned into a wider show of hostility toward Turkey`s Islamic-rooted government after it met the initial demonstrations with a harsh police response.
The EU`s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday that Turkey`s response to protesters must be "engagement not antagonism".
She also urged the EU not to pull back from Turkey over the protest crackdown.
In February, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is in favour of opening up a "new chapter" in EU membership talks with Turkey, adding that negotiations need to move forward even if she remains sceptical.
The EU opened accession talks with Turkey in 2005, but negotiations have been held up over German and French opposition to granting the country full membership, as well as Ankara`s refusal to recognise the divided island of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third in response to a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognises the authorities in the northern sector.