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German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday that Turkey was drifting away from the rule of law fast and vowed to push her EU partners to consider suspending or ending its accession talks at an October meeting.

Less than three weeks before an election, she vented her frustration with Turkey and spelled out her intentions clearly to the lower house of parliament after on Sunday sharpening her rhetoric and saying Turkey should not become an EU member.

Those comments, made in a televised debate with her Social Democrat (SPD) election rival, drew charges of populism from Ankara. It was the latest of a series of spats between Merkel and President Tayyip Erdogan over the last two years.

"Turkey is moving away from the path of the rule of law at a very fast speed," Merkel said, adding her government would do everything it could to secure the release of Germans detained in Turkey, who Berlin says are innocent.

Merkel said developments called for a rethink of Germany's and the EU's relations with Turkey.

"We will also - and I will suggest this takes place at the EU meeting in October - discuss future relations with Turkey, including the question of suspending or ending talks on accession," she said.

"I will push for a decisive stand ... But we need to coordinate and work with our partners," she said, adding that it would damage the EU if Erdogan saw member states embroiled in an argument. "That would dramatically weaken Europe's position."

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Paul Carrel; editing by Andrew Roche)

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