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Oct 19, 7:37 PM EDT

Merkel: EU to cut aid to Turkey over democratic backsliding

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BRUSSELS (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said early Friday that European Union leaders have agreed to reduce financial assistance for helping Turkey get ready for possible EU membership due to that country's violations of the rule of law and human rights.

But Merkel also stressed that she wants to keep talking to Turkey and said there is no consensus among leaders of the 28-member bloc to completely end membership talks with Turkey, which have been underway since 2005.

Speaking at a summit in Brussels, Merkel criticized the "absolutely unsatisfying human rights situation" in Turkey, but said she wanted to "avoid a showdown" and does not wish "to break bridges" with the NATO country.

Merkel arrived at the summit Thursday saying she considers Turkey's developments on democracy "very negative, not only because many Germans are under arrest."

Hours later she said that she and other EU leaders held very important talks on Turkey and that the bloc's executive arm would work on proposals for reducing financial aid that has been channeled to helping the country prepare for membership.

Merkel did praise Turkey for helping stop the huge flow of migrants into Europe as part of a deal with the EU.

Turkey's bid to join the EU has stalled following a crackdown on dissent that followed a failed coup attempt in 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has arrested several German citizens, including journalists and a human rights worker.

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