Erdogan secured pledge from Brussels to resurrect membership talks first started in 2005 in exchange for lifting blockade of Sweden’s

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused the European Union of pulling away from Turkey, whose efforts to join the bloc have stalled amid criticism of Ankara’s efforts to address democracy and rule of law concerns.

Erdogan secured a pledge from Brussels to resurrect the membership talks first started in 2005 in exchange for lifting its blockade of Sweden’s drive to join the NATO military alliance in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

Earlier this month, the EU’s enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi travelled to Turkey, saying that while membership had “huge potential”, the bloc needed to see action on human rights issues before talks resume.

“The European Union is trying to distance itself from us,” Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport before flying to New York for the UN General Assembly. “We will carry out our own assessment of the situation and we also could take another direction,” he said.

Erdogan has made mending torn ties with Western allies a priority after winning a difficult election in May following years of tensions after his government launched a sweeping crackdown in the wake of a failed coup in July 2016, sparking accusations of human rights abuses.

During his trip, Varhelyi said, “there are very clear criteria set out also by the European Council that would need to be addressed”. “And these criteria are related to democracy and the rule of law and, for example, a credible roadmap for moving forward in these reforms,” he said.

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