BERLIN (Sputnik) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Berlin cannot stop the talks on Turkey's accession, but it would impose economic punitive measures in response to arrests of German citizens.
"We have no powers [to stop the talks], this decision is made by the majority in the European Union," Merkel said, when asked whether the talks with Turkey should be halted following detentions of German nationals in Turkey.
Angela Merkel also said that the decision to sign the EU-Turkey migration agreement in 2016 was absolutely right, and the deal is still viable today.
"I remain convinced that it [the EU-Turkey migration agreement] is absolutely correct," Merkel said during a televised election debate broadcast by ARD TV channel, adding that Germany was harshly criticized for its participation in negotiating the deal.
In March 2016, the European Union and Turkey agreed that Syrian refugees arriving in Greece would be returned to Turkey if their claim for asylum is rejected, while Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey would be resettled in Europe on a one-for-one basis. In return, Ankara received $6.4 billion in financial aid and major concessions on EU membership and travel. The agreement was supposed to address the overwhelming influx of migrants and refugees to Europe.
"We have done a lot of work in this regard, and I absolutely agree with you that those who have been rejected a refugee status should leave Germany," Merkel said.
Merkel was participating in the debates, broadcast by ARD, with her chief opponent at the upcoming general election, Leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) Martin Schulz.
SPD and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are the two leading contenders for Bundestag seats in the election scheduled for September 24.