No decision will be made this year regarding whether or not to end talks with Turkey regarding joining the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) said at Thursday's informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.
In a sharp escalation of an already tense diplomatic spat between two NATO allies with long-standing links, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said she would ask the EU to terminate Turkey's accession talks.
Mikser, however, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, said that any decision would have to wait for an assessment by the European Commission regarding whether Turkey was in accordance with membership criteria.
"I do not expect the EU to make any decisions in that regard this year," he said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, adding that the Commission's assessment was expected early next year.
In the wake of an attempted army coup against him last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pursued a crackdown on opponents in which thousands of people have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs.
A dozen German journalists and activists have also been arrested, fraying relations with Berlin. Turkey remains an important player for Europe on a number of key issues, however, including the ongoing migrant crisis.
Echoing the cautious note struck by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day in Athens, Mikser said that the EU should "tread very carefully" with Turkey, which is also an important member of NATO.
"When discussing Turkey's status as a candidate country, we should also discuss the future relationship in all its aspects and not make any hasty decisions without comprehensively considering these things," Mikser said.
Last year, the EU and Turkey agreed to a deal which helped stem the flow of undreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Greece. Ankara has threatened to rescind the pact at times when tensions have flared with Brussels over concerns about human rights abuses.
Editor: Aili Vahtla