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Dutch foreign minister ‘will argue’ for a freeze on accession talks with Turkey

THE NETHERLANDS. Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders has told parliament he is prepared to argue in favour of temporarily suspending talks with Turkey about EU membership following pressure from MPs.

A majority of MPs is in favour of calling a halt to the negotiations, now that the Labour party has decided to change its position. The party, which had opposed stopping the talks, now says it wants a six month moratorium because of the worsening situation in Turkey itself.

Koenders told MPs that he wants to ensure the EU remains unified on the issue but that he is now prepared to raise a possible freeze with other member states.

Freezing the negotiations would not be a revolutionary step because they have already virtually ground to a halt, he said. Turkish accession talks began in 2005 but have made slow progress since then.

Koenders repeated earlier assertions that the Dutch government is extremely concerned about events in Turkey, where tens of thousands of people have been arrested since the abortive coup.

‘The key issue is how we can improve that situation,’ Koenders said.

Meanwhile, Germany has denied that chancellor Angela Merkel wants to stop talks with Turkey altogether. ‘Chancellor Merkel’s position on the accession talks has not changed,’ her spokesman told Reuters.

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