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Erdogan says Turkey may hold referendum on EU accession bid

Comments came day after vow to review all political and administrative ties with EU, including deal to curb illegal migration
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at campaign rally earlier this month (Reuters)

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks, after a planned vote on 16 April that could give him sweeping new powers.

"Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the [EU] accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there," Erdogan told a joint forum with Britain in the southern city of Antalya.

His comments came a day after he vowed to review all political and administrative ties with the EU, including a deal to curb illegal migration.

Turkey's relations with the EU countries have soured over the past few months after Germany and the Netherlands cancelled campaign rallies on their territories by Turkish officials seeking to drum up support among expatriate Turks for a "yes" vote in the April referendum.

Both countries cited security concerns for their decisions, but Erdogan has accused them of using "Nazi methods" and trampling on free speech, comments infuriating several EU governments and deepening the row.

"Turkey has waited at the door (of the EU) for 54 years," he said, referring to 1963 when Ankara partnered up with the bloc's then economic union.

Turkey's accession talks with the EU began in 2005 but have progressed at a snail's pace amid concerns over its human rights record, ethnically split Cyprus, and reluctance among some European countries to admit a largely Muslim nation.

Turkey is also an integral part of a deal to keep hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing the Middle East and beyond from moving to Europe, in return for EU financial aid to Ankara.

Another contentious issue is the death penalty, which the Turkish president said again on Saturday he would approve if it was passed by parliament and brought to him.

"What if the death penalty is for the 249 people killed, Turkey has no place in Europe. Oh, let it not be," he said, referring to the number of people killed during last July's failed coup.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU.

Brussels has repeatedly made clear that any move to bring it back would scupper Turkey's efforts to join the bloc.

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