German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she would seek an end to Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union in an apparent shift of her position during a televised debate weeks before a German election. Pascale Davies reports.
Just weeks before a presidential election in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bold pledge on Sunday (September 3) that Turkey should not become an EU member in a live TV debate with her opponent Martin Schulz. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "I was never in favour of Turkey joining the EU, and now I will reflect carefully on the options. I am immediately in favour of stopping pre-accession aid but whether we close the door or whether Turkey does we will have to see." Her comments coming after her rival was the first to say he would break off the talks if he won the parlimentary poll on September 24th. Merkel initially cautioned against such a move, saying it would be irresponsible to endanger ties with Turkey at a time when Germans are imprisoned there. Twelve German citizens are currently in Turkish detention on political charges; four of them hold dual citizenship. The comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the two NATO allies, which have deepened since Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on opponents following an attempted coup last year, The exchange over Turkey was the high point of a wide-ranging debate, but Schulz also focused on domestic policy- attacking the chancellor over her decsion in 2015 to keep Germany's borders open for asylum seekers. Merkel responded by saying she had simply implemented the first article of the German constitution, which upholds human rights. While viewers were impressed with Schulz's aggression, they judged their current Chancellor the overall winner. Some 55 percent of those polled for ARD television found Merkel more convincing against 35 per cent for Schulz.