The European Parliament has voted to freeze long-term plans for Turkey to join the EU in what is widely seen as a response to Ankara’s crackdown on political opposition and independent media since July’s failed coup.
MEPs voted 479 in favour on the motion amending EU-Turkey relations, with 37 against and 107 abstentions in a plenary session in Strasbourg on Thursday.
The long-expected suspension had been criticised by those who say that rather than encouraging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change tack, the vote will only push the country towards adopting even harsher stances on human rights issues.
More than 40,000 people in Turkey have been jailed under emergency laws since the aborted military takeover this summer, and 100,000 fired from public sector jobs, many in schools and universities.
“I believe the best way to strengthening Turkey’s democracy, the most effective way, is by engaging with Turkey, by keeping channels open,” EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said ahead of the vote.
“If the accession process came to an end, I believe we would both find ourselves in a lose-lose scenario.”
The Turkish delegation to the EU said it was "dismayed" by the result, criticising the decision to uphold the motion as "lacking vision".
The EU agreed to accelerated talks on the country becoming a member of the EU in February as part of a deal which would see Middle Eastern and African refugees arriving on European shores deported back to Turkey.
The deal has largely succeeded in bringing the numbers of people arriving from across the Aegean Sea down from a peak of over 2,000 people a day in 2015 to a current average of around 100 a day. It also included £2.3 billion in promised aid, £5.7 million of which has been given so far.
How the future of the strategy to combat the refugee crisis could be affected by Thursday's vote is unclear.
In exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU bloc, Turkey was also supposed to modify its anti-terror laws to bring them into line with existing EU policy.
However, Mr Erdogan has said that in the light of the July coup he will consider asking parliament to bring back the death penalty - which would definitely rule out the possibility of EU membership.
Turkey has suggested it may instead join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, an economic bloc which includes China and Russia.
In pictures: Turkey coup attempt
In pictures: Turkey coup attempt
Turkish President Erdogan attends the funeral service for victims of the thwarted coup in Istanbul at Fatih mosque on July 17, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey
Burak Kara/Getty Images
Soldiers involved in the coup attempt surrender on Bosphorus bridge with their hands raised in Istanbul on 16 July, 2016
A civilian beats a soldier after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, 16 July, 2016
Surrendered Turkish soldiers who were involved in the coup are beaten by a civilian
Soliders involved in the coup attempt surrender on Bosphorus bridge
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave flags as they capture a Turkish Army vehicle
People pose near a tank after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, 16 July, 2016
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's Bosphorus Brigde
A Turkish military stands guard near the Taksim Square in Istanbul
Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square
Turkish soldiers detain police officers during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge
Turkish Army armoured personnel carriers in the main streets of Istanbul
Chaos reigned in Istanbul as tanks drove through the streets
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to media in the resort town of Marmaris
Supporters of President Erdogan celebrate in Ankara following the suppression of the attempted coup
A formal suspension on the EU membership talks will not be possible until December at the earliest, and will require a vote by the European Parliament's member states.
Turkey's European Union Minister Omer Celik was dismissive of Thursday's vote.
"We consider that decision null and void. It is not a decision that can be taken seriously because of the vision it has and the language that pervades the text," he told a televised news conference.
Mr Celik's comments follows President Erdogan's, who said ahead of the vote that the exercise was "worthless" and accused Europe of taking the side of “terror organisations".
His country's “struggle for its stability and future won't be interrupted by [European legislators] raising and lowering their hands,” Mr Erdogan added.Reuse content