The European Union will maintain talks with Turkey over its long-standing attempts to join the economic bloc, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says.
Turkey's acceptance has been hindered by EU concerns about its refusal to withdraw from northern Cyprus and the country's human rights record, The New York Times reported.
"These negotiations will continue irrespective of the questions that we have to clarify," Merkel said Wednesday in a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan set a deadline of 2023 for the EU to accept its membership. Turkey, a NATO ally, has been negotiating to join the bloc since 1995 and could move to strengthen ties with Russia and Iran if it is turned down, some analysts believe.
Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party has suggested Turkey be given a special "privileged partnership" status in lieu of full membership.
Turkey has occupied northern Cyprus since it invaded the island in 1974, dividing the country. The EU recognizes only the government in southern Cyprus and has encouraged Turkey to resolve its dispute with the south.
Wednesday, Merkel praised Turkey for accepting more than 100,000 Syrian refugees and pledged that Germany would provide humanitarian assistance to help Turkey cope with the strains brought on by the crisis.
Speaking earlier in Berlin, Egemen Bagis, Turkey's minister for European Union affairs, said his country had become "much more democratic and transparent" and its policies on human rights and freedom of speech had improved since Erdogan's party came to power a decade ago.
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