European Union foreign ministers meeting in Malta on April 28 left the door open for Turkey to join the bloc despite months of angry rhetoric between EU member states and Ankara.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after the meeting that "we would be happy to have them in.” But she made it clear that Ankara would still have to meet necessary conditions.
The talks in the Maltese capital of Valletta took place in the wake of an April 16 referendum in Turkey that gives more powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his harsh criticism of several EU nations, some of which he compared to Nazis.
According to the official results, Erdogan narrowly won the divisive referendum, which could smooth his path to remain in power until 2029.
Final official results released on April 27 said "yes" received 51.4 percent and "no" received 48.6 percent. Turnout was 87.5 percent.
International observers and the political opposition in Turkey complained of the widespread potential for electoral fraud and an unfair campaign ahead of the vote that favored Erdogan’s attempts to have Turkey’s constitution amended.
The European Parliament has called for the official suspension of EU accession talks with Turkey, which is already a member of NATO.
Erdogan himself expressed doubts about the need to continue talks with the EU and said joining the bloc was no longer a priority for Turkey.
Mogherini said that, after a "very frank and open" meeting with the foreign ministers, she was "happy to have [Turkey] in, but a level of clarification" was needed from the Turkish side.
"The accession process continues, it is not suspended, not ended, [but] we are currently not working on any new chapters," she told reporters after the Malta meeting.
Germany also urged its EU allies not to give up on Turkey’s possible membership, saying the country remains important to European interests.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he was "strictly against" ending Turkey's bid for EU membership.
France's Jean-Marc Ayrault echoed those comments, saying, “How can we ignore Turkey? We have to fight terrorism. We want Turkey to respect the migration deal we have."
However, Austria, which has been the target of angry comments by Erdogan, repeated its demand that negotiations be ended, saying the Turkish president had violated EU rule-of-law and democratic norms.
Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak also questioned Turkey's credentials to join, saying EU "values must be underpinned by concrete steps and you must not be saying one thing and marching in a different direction."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking on the sidelines of the meetings and after informal talks with EU ministers, said Austria should reverse its "wrong policy" regarding Turkey's talks of joining the EU.
Otherwise, he said, he felt a "positive" response from other EU leaders regarding Turkey's accession talks.
Earlier in the week, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told RFE/RL that the bloc must start discussing a “possible new format of cooperation” with Turkey because the EU accession process had become stalled.