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Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik reacts during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, March 14, 2017. Picture taken March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC13B5BF85D0(reuters_tickers)
LONDON (Reuters) - Turkey feels betrayed by European Union leaders who have said accession talks should be scrapped but it still hopes to eventually join the bloc, Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik said on Thursday.
After trading barbs for months with President Tayyip Erdogan, largely over Turkey's human rights record, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this month that it was clear Turkey should not join the EU and accession talks should end.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on Wednesday he saw no prospect of Turkey joining the EU in "the foreseeable future".
Celik told Reuters in an interview that he was very surprised by Juncker's comments and questioned what he had done to improve relations.
“We were taken very much surprise when listening to the statements made by Mr Juncker,” said Celik, speaking through a translator. “What has Mr Junker done, what giant steps has he made, to find solutions to bring the EU and Turkey closer? That is my question for Mr Juncker."
The European Union has become increasingly critical of Turkey's decades-long membership drive since President Erdogan launched a major crackdown on critics - including journalists and academics - after a failed 2016 coup.
"We are indeed disappointed by Merkel and some others in the EU: at one of the hardest times in our history we were left alone by our friends and allies," Celik said. When asked if Turkey felt betrayed, he said: "Yes".
Formally ending Turkey's accession negotiations would require unanimity among EU states, which is lacking, though majority backing is enough to suspend them.
Celik suggested that a leaders summit of the EU and Turkey be called to improve relations.
“Turkey has not given up on its target to be a full member of the EU: We are eager and willing to find solutions to move forward," he said.
But he said critics of Turkey, including Merkel, had not kept their promises to Ankara and were using criticism of Turkey to distract attention from the EU's own problems.
"The EU has real problems – we don’t know what will come out of Brexit, they are not able to manage the irregular migration, there are weaknesses in the EU’s counter-terrorism capacity and there are vitally needed reforms," he said.
"But they put all those aside and they stoke antagonism towards Turkey in order to cover up their vital internal problems."
EU leaders will discuss Turkey at a summit in Brussels in October, though any formal decision may not come before next spring.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)