Severe COVID-19 riskier than heart attack for young adults; antibiotic shows no benefit

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

More young adults survive heart attacks than severe COVID-19

Among COVID-19 patients treated at 419 U.S. hospitals from April through June, only about 5% were ages 18 to 34. But that group had “substantial rates of adverse outcomes,” according to a report on Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Roughly one in five needed intensive care, one in 10 needed mechanical ventilation, and nearly 3% died. While the mortality rate is lower than in older adults, it is roughly double the death rate of young adults from heart attacks, the authors say. Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes were tied to higher risk for adverse events. For young adults with more than one of these conditions, the risk of a bad outcome was similar to middle-aged adults without the risk factors. More than half of hospitalized young adults were Black or Hispanic, “consistent with prior findings of disproportionate illness severity in these demographic groups,” the authors said. “Given the sharply rising rates of COVID-19 infection in young adults, these findings underscore the importance of infection prevention measures in this age group,” the concluded.

Antibiotic fails to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients

The antibiotic azithromycin did not appear to provide any benefit to hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were having trouble breathing, according to a study in Brazil. At 57 hospitals, 243 COVID-19 patients who needed oxygen or mechanical ventilation were randomly assigned to receive azithromycin, while 183 similar patients did not get the antibiotic. All received other standard treatment, which in Brazil included hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that other studies have shown provides little or no benefit. While azithromycin did not appear to do any harm, after 15 days it was not associated with any patient improvement nor did it reduce their risk of death. In an April survey of more than 6,000 physicians in 30 countries, azithromycin was the second most commonly prescribed treatment for COVID-19, the study investigators wrote in The Lancet medical journal. The absence of any benefit in this new study “suggests that the routine use of this strategy should be avoided,” they said.

Risk of catching COVID-19 while hospitalized can be low

Among nearly 8,500 patients admitted to a large Boston hospital between early March and the end of May, only two became sick with coronavirus infections that may have been acquired while they were hospitalized, doctors report. One likely was infected by a spouse who initially appeared well during daily visits but who developed symptoms while the patient was still hospitalized. That was before visitor restrictions and universal masking rules had been implemented. The other patient developed symptoms four days after leaving the hospital. The source of the infection is not known. According to a paper published on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, infection control efforts at the hospital included dedicated COVID-19 units with airborne infection isolation rooms, personal protective equipment for staff and monitoring to make sure those were used correctly, universal masking, visitor restriction, and liberal COVID-19 testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. These “robust and rigorous infection control practices may be associated with minimized risk” of COVID-19 spreading through hospitals, the authors conclude. Their findings, if replicated at other U.S. hospitals, “should provide reassurance to patients,” they said.

Longer-term COVID-19 lung damage can improve over time

COVID-19 lung damage persists long term but tends to improve, researchers reported on Monday at the European Respiratory Society International Virtual Congress. Researchers studied 86 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 48% of whom had a smoking history and 21% of whom required intensive care. At 6 weeks after discharge, 47% of patients still reported feeling short of breath. By 12 weeks, that dropped to 39%. CT scans still showed lung damage in 88% of patients at six weeks, dropping to 56% at 12 weeks. “Overall, this study shows that COVID-19 survivors have persisting pulmonary impairment weeks after recovery. Yet, overtime, a moderate improvement is detectable,” lead researcher Dr. Sabina Sahanic, from University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, said during a press briefing. A related study featured at the meeting stressed the importance of early pulmonary rehabilitation after COVID-19 patients come off a ventilator. This should include balance and walking, muscle strengthening, respiratory exercises and endurance training. “The sooner rehabilitation started and the longer it lasted, the faster and better was the improvement in patients’ walking and breathing capacities and muscle gain,” coauthor Yara Al Chikhanie, from Grenoble Alps University in France, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

UK conducts random coronavirus testing as part of early warning plan

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has started random tests for coronavirus on flu patients to have an early warning system in place in case the outbreak becomes more widespread, a senior health official said.

Britain has so far had 13 cases of coronavirus. An outbreak in northern Italy worsened on Wednesday, and the illness has spread to Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and France via visitors who were recently in northern Italy.

“We’re heightening our vigilance because of the apparent spread of the virus in countries outside mainland China,” Public Health England’s medical director, Paul Cosford, told BBC radio on Wednesday.

The disease is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

British health minister Matt Hancock said the government had plans in place in case the virus becomes a pandemic.

In Britain, random tests for the virus will be carried out at 11 hospitals and 100 general medical offices on people who have flu symptoms including a cough, plus shortness of breath and a fever.

“This testing will tell us whether there’s evidence of infection more widespread than we think there is. We don’t think there is at the moment,” PHE’s Cosford said.

“The other thing it will do is, if we do get to the position of more widespread infection across the country, then it will give us early warning that that’s happening,” he added.

Hancock told parliament the government expected more cases in Britain and was planning to introduce home testing.

“We are taking all necessary measures to minimise the risk to the public,” he said. “The public can be assured that we have a clear plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate this virus.”

Media have reported several schools have closed or sent pupils home after returning from trips to northern Italy during last week’s school holiday. Hancock said there was no need for schools to close or other students or staff to be sent home.

(Reporting by Sarah Young and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by William Schomberg and Stephen Addison)

Major European nations recognize Guaido as Venezuela president

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

By Jose Elas Rodriguez and Sudip Kar-Gupta

MADRID/PARIS (Reuters) – Ten European nations joined the United States in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday, heightening a global showdown over Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.

France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands’ coordinated move came after the expiry of an eight-day ultimatum for Maduro to call a new election.

The Venezuelan leader, accused of running the OPEC nation of 30 million people like a dictatorship and wrecking its economy, has defied them and said European rulers are sycophantically following President Donald Trump.

Guaido, who leads the National Assembly, declared himself caretaker leader last month in a move that has divided international powers and brought Venezuelans onto the streets.

Trump immediately recognized him but European Union countries were more hesitant.

Russia and China, which have poured billions of dollars of investment and loans into Venezuela, are supporting Maduro in an extension of their geopolitical tussle with the United States.

“From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, urging fair elections and humanitarian aid.

In response, Maduro accused “cowardly” Spain of taking a “malign” decision. “If one day there is a coup, if one day there is a gringo military intervention, your hands will be stained with blood, Mr. Pedro Sanchez,” he said in a speech.

Maduro, 56, a former union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, replaced former president Hugo Chavez in 2013 after his death from cancer. But he has presided over an economic collapse and exodus of 3 million Venezuelans.

He accuses Washington of waging an “economic war” on Venezuela and harboring coup pretensions aimed at gaining control over its oil. Venezuela’s oil reserves are the largest in the world but production has plunged under Maduro.

“ILLEGITIMATE, KLEPTOCRATIC REGIME”

Critics say incompetent policies and corruption have impoverished the once-wealthy nation while dissent has been brutally crushed.

A draft EU statement said the 28-member bloc would “acknowledge” Guaido as interim president, but formal recognition was a prerogative of individual states.

“The oppression of the illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime must end,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt as he announced London was recognizing Guaido.

Russia accused Europe of meddling.

“Imposing some kind of decisions or trying to legitimize an attempt to usurp power is both direct and indirect interference,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Caracas pays both Russian and Chinese loans with oil.

Maduro won re-election last year, but critics say the vote was a sham. Two opposition rivals with a good chance of winning were barred, while food handouts and other subsidies to hungry Venezuelans were linked with political support.

Italy’s 5-Star Movement, which makes up half of the ruling coalition, dissents from the European stance, saying it would not recognize self-appointed leaders.

But its governing partner, the League, disagrees.

Guaido told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that he would do everything possible to secure Italian support.

In addition to European pressure, a bloc of Latin American nations plus Canada were to meet on Monday seeking to maintain pressure on Maduro.

“All these shameless people are clinging to power,” said Luis, a 45-year-old Venezuelan outside the consulate in Madrid. “Let them hold elections so they see they won’t get even 10 percent of the votes.”

Italy’s SkyTG24 channel quoted Maduro as appealing to the Pope to help dialogue ahead of what he hoped would be a “peace conference” led by Mexico and others on Feb. 7. Conscious of the collapse of a past Vatican mediation bid, foes say Maduro uses dialogue to play for time and regroup when on the back foot.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Holden in London; Jose Elias Rodriguez in Madrid; Andrew Osborn and Thomas Balmforth in Moscow; Andrei Khalip in Lisbon; Steve Scherer in Rome; Alissa de Carbonnel and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Sarah Marsh in Caracas; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Turkey trawled four continents for data on Erdogan foes: Austrian lawmaker

The Turkish flag is seen outside their embassy in Vienna, Austria, March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

By Shadia Nasralla and Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Turkish embassies on four continents submitted reports on alleged foreign-based opponents of President Tayyip Erdogan within a week of receiving a request from Ankara last September, according to documents released by an Austrian lawmaker.

The papers made public by opposition Greens politician Peter Pilz suggested a wider intelligence network than has so far been revealed by authorities investigating alleged spying by Turkey on its expatriates in three European countries.

“There is clearly a global network of informants. We cannot say exactly how long it took to build up this network. I assume that it happened in a matter of years,” Pilz told reporters.

A senior Turkish government official said: “These claims are completely false.”

Tensions are running high between Turkey and the European Union as Ankara tries to drum up support among expatriate Turks to vote ‘yes’ in a referendum on April 16 on whether to grant Erdogan sweeping new powers.

German, Austrian and Swiss authorities have all launched investigations into whether Turkey is conducting illegal espionage on their soil.

German prosecutors are investigating Halife Keskin, who leads the foreign affairs department of the Turkish state religious authority, the Diyanet, newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and two German broadcasters reported late on Friday.

Investigators have a document in which Keskin personally ordered the global surveillance effort and asked for any reports to be sent to him, according to the German media.

The German federal prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

An official at the Diyanet said Keskin was currently in Turkey and that while the Diyanet was aware of the German media reports, it had received no official notification from the German authorities that Keskin was being investigated.

Countries routinely post intelligence officers in their embassies, and the European authorities have not said in what ways the alleged Turkish activity went beyond acceptable levels of information-gathering by a foreign power.

Among the documents released by Pilz was a written call on Sept. 20, using the letterheads of the prime minister’s office and the Diyanet, for information on supporters of Erdogan’s arch-enemy Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey has accused Gulen of masterminding a failed coup attempt last July and has purged state institutions, schools, universities and the media of tens of thousands of suspected Gulen supporters. The cleric denies any involvement.

The documents, which Pilz said he had received from a Turkish source, showed embassies in over 30 countries across Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia sent reports to Diyanet on alleged Gulenists. Most were filed by religious attaches in Turkish embassies or consulates.

NAMES AND ADDRESSES

They typically listed the names and addresses of alleged Gulenists, as well as of publishing houses, media groups, educational centers and schools deemed to support the exiled cleric. Some reports include information on family members and the educational background of targeted people.

Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the documents, but a source close to Austria’s government said it was safe to assume the ones on Austria were genuine.

Some reports, such as the one from Nigeria, include the names of middlemen responsible for building up ties between Gulenists and local power centers.

In the Austrian report, a Turkish official in Salzburg says an Austrian mosque umbrella group and other organizations have destroyed books, audio material, videos and newspapers deemed to be Gulenist.

The official says some gaps left by disappearing Gulenist organizations have been successfully filled with Erdogan-friendly replacements, such as after-school clubs.

A report from Azerbaijan names a journalist and some parliamentarians as sources of information on Gulenists. It names the director of a Turkish high school in Baku who will be reminded about the need to remove Gulenist teachers at his school.

An Australian report refers to “people who have lived in Australia for a long time and who know (the Gulenist) structure very well”. An entry from Mongolia describes activity by alleged Gulenists on Facebook and Twitter.

Turkey has rejected previous accusations that it was using religious bodies in Europe to spy on Erdogan critics.

In March, the religious attache of Turkey’s embassy in Austria told a local newspaper that mosque groups had a duty to check whether people of Turkish origin in Austria had been “radicalized” by Gulen. He said it was legitimate to deliver reports on such people.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Austria says wants exemption from EU migrant relocation system

Migrants wait to cross the border from Slovenia into Spielfeld in Austria, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will seek an exemption from having to accept more asylum-seekers under an EU relocation system, it said on Tuesday, arguing that it has already taken in its fair share during Europe’s migration crisis.

The move is a new blow to the system that would cover only a fraction of migrant arrivals to the European Union and that has barely been implemented because of opposition led by Eastern European countries including Poland and Hungary.

It also coincides with a tightening of security and immigration rules by the centrist coalition government in Austria, where a wave of arrivals that began in 2015 helped fuel a rise in support for the far-right Freedom Party, which still leads in opinion polls.

“We believe an exception is necessary for Austria for having already fulfilled its obligation. We will discuss that with the European Commission,” Chancellor Christian Kern told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting. “We will send a letter as quickly as possible and then begin discussions.”

Fewer than 14,500 asylum-seekers have been relocated from Greece and Italy, the first EU countries that many refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa set foot in, under the two-year EU plan that was supposed to cover 160,000 people and which expires in September.

“We are of the opinion … that the people in question here already sought an asylum application or arrived in Italy or Greece,” Kern said. “We must check whether we have already fulfilled our quota and discharged our obligation.”

Austria took in roughly 90,000 asylum seekers in 2015, more than 1 percent of its population. More than a million migrants arrived in Germany that year, most of them having passed through Austria after crossing the Balkans from Greece.

Austria has repeatedly called on other EU countries to take their fair share, and has even backed the idea of financial penalties for those that do not.

The Commission granted Austria a temporary exception because of the large number of people it had taken in, but that has since expired.

“Austria is now expected to fulfill its legal obligation … to start relocating,” Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said.

The government has been seeking to erode support for the Freedom Party with a series of law-and-order measures and stricter immigration rules.

An “integration bill” agreed in cabinet on Tuesday would ban face-veils in public places and oblige unemployed refugees to perform jobs “of public utility” for no pay beyond their normal benefit payments.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; additional reporting by Waverly Colville in Brussels; Editing by Catherine Evans and Robin Pomeroy)

NATO head urges Turkey, Austria to resolve dispute

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg delivers his speech during the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Austria and Turkey on Friday to resolve a diplomatic dispute that has led to some cooperation programs being blocked.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has withdrawn from some alliance participation – mostly military training – saying the move is aimed only at Austria.

“It is a very unfortunate situation and it means some cooperation programs can’t be launched,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to the Danish capital Copenhagen.

Austria, which is not a NATO member but cooperates with the alliance, led calls last year to halt Turkey’s European Union accession talks. Vienna has also spoken out against Turkish politicians holding rallies in European countries.

“It’s a bilateral situation between Turkey and Austria and we strongly urge them to solve it, so that it won’t have negative consequences for the cooperation,” he said.

The diplomatic tensions predate a current escalation with other European countries like Germany and Netherlands but as fellow NATO members Turkey cannot block cooperation with them.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has compared Germany and the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis for stopping Turkish politicians from rallying to promote a referendum granting him sweeping new powers.

Erdogan on Thursday said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had lost the friendship of Ankara after the diplomatic row.

NATO officials told Reuters that the blocking also affected other countries that cooperate with the alliance but are not members.

Separately, Austrian tabloid newspaper Oesterreich said its website was brought down on Friday morning by a cyber attack “from Turkey”, the latest in a series of similar incidents that appear to be connected to Vienna’s spat with Ankara.

It did not present evidence to support the accusation.

“The Turkish cyber attack on our website was launched out of anger by Erdogan’s cadres because oe24 and Oesterreich report critically and independently on Erdogan and his policies,” the newspaper said in an article.

(Reporting by Teis Jensen in Copenhagen, additional reporting by Fran├žois Murphy in Vienna writing by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Gareth Jones and Julia Glover)

Austrian parliament says Turkish Islamist hackers claim cyber attack

Austrian Parliament building

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s parliament said on Tuesday that a Turkish Islamist hackers’ group had claimed responsibility for a cyber attack that brought down its website for 20 minutes this weekend.

Aslan Neferler Tim (ANT), or Lion Soldiers Team, whose website says it defends the homeland, Islam, the nation and flag, without any party political links, claimed the attack, a parliamentary spokeswoman said.

Relations between Turkey and Austria soured last year after President Tayyip Erdogan cracked down on dissent following a failed coup, and Vienna has since made a solo charge within the European Union for accession talks to be dropped.

On its Facebook page on Sunday afternoon, above a screenshot indicating the website was not loading, ANT said in Turkish: “Our reaction will be harsh in response to this racism of Austria against Muslims!!! (Parliament down).”

ANT says it has carried out “operations” against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Austrian central bank and an Austrian airport.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that an investigation had begun into the cyber attack and, declining to elaborate further, noted that no data had been lost.

A parliamentary spokeswoman said: “ANT has claimed responsibility.” When asked if ANT was responsible, she said: “We assume so.”

The website was brought down after the server was flooded with service requests, a so-called DDoS-attack, similar to an attack last November that targeted the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries’ websites, a statement from parliament said.

DDoS attacks are among the most common cyber threats. One such attack targeted the European Commission’s computers in November.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was also recently the target of a cyber attack.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, Francois Murphy in VIENNA and Daren Butler in ISTANBUL; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Eight held in Austrian police raids linked to Islamic State

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austrian police took eight people into custody on Thursday in raids linked to potential connections with the militant group Islamic State, prosecutors in the city of Graz said.

Around 800 police officers took part in the raids in Vienna and Graz “due to suspected participation in a terrorist organization (‘IS’),” they said in a statement, adding that the coordinated action had been planned for some time.

The statement gave no more details, but a spokesman said the people taken into custody included three Austrian nationals with a migrant background, two Bosnians and a Syrian. The nationalities of the other suspects were not immediately known.

“There was no acute danger” and no indications of a concrete attack, the spokesman said, adding that the detentions were not connected to the arrest of an Austrian teenager last week on suspicion of planning an Islamist attack in Vienna.

That suspect, a 17-year-old with Albanian roots, was arrested on Friday after tip-offs from unspecified foreign countries. Austria alerted Germany to a related suspect, a 21-year-old who was arrested in the western German city of Neuss on Saturday. A boy thought to be 12 has also been held in Austria.

German authorities have been on high alert since a Tunisian failed asylum seeker rammed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on Dec. 19, killing 12 people.

Police in Vienna have also been on heightened alert since Friday’s arrest and have increased patrols at transport hubs and busy public places.

(Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich in Vienna and Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Austrian teenager says he built ‘test bomb’ in Germany: minister

VIENNA (Reuters) – An Austrian teenager arrested on suspicion of planning an Islamist attack in Vienna has told investigators he built a “test bomb” in Germany, where another suspect has been arrested, Austria’s interior minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The Austrian suspect, a 17-year-old with Albanian roots, was arrested on Friday after tip-offs from unspecified foreign countries. Austria alerted Germany to a related suspect, a 21-year-old who was arrested in the western city of Neuss on Saturday. A boy thought to be 12 has also been held in Austria.

Whether the German and Austrian suspects are believed to have planned separate attacks or a joint one, and of what nature, is not clear. Austria has said public places in Vienna including its underground transit system might have been a target.

“A test bomb seems to have been put together,” Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told broadcaster ORF, even though no explosives were found in the apartment in question. “That is all we can announce today from the questioning.”

Asked what he meant by a test bomb, Sobotka said: “Where one tries to put together materials obtained on the market from instructions on the internet.” He added that what had been established in the questioning was changing daily.

An Interior Ministry spokesman declined to elaborate.

The German admitted during questioning that the Austrian had visited him for two weeks at the end of last year, a spokesman for the Duesseldorf prosecutor said on Monday.

Germany’s Focus magazine had said the man was planning a bomb attack on police and soldiers. Both he and the Austrian had experimented with materials to create explosives in the Neuss apartment, it said.

German authorities have been on high alert since a Tunisian whose bid for asylum had been rejected rammed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on Dec. 19, killing 12 people.

Police in Vienna have been put on heightened alert since Friday’s arrest and have increased patrols at transport hubs and busy public places.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

European lawmakers call for end to Turkey EU membership

A woman adjusts the Turkish flag next to the European Union flag at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Alissa de Carbonnel

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The leaders of the European Parliament’s two largest groups called on Tuesday for the European Union to halt membership talks with Turkey because of its post-coup purges.

“Our message to Turkey is very clear: accession negotiations should be frozen immediately,” said Manfred Weber, the head of the largest faction in the European Parliament, the center-right European People’s Party.

He was echoed by Gianni Pitella, the leader of the socialist group, the parliament’s second biggest: “We want to freeze the accession talks.”

More than 110,000 people in Turkey – including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders – have been suspended from their positions or dismissed over their alleged backing for the plotters of a failed military coup in July.

Some 36,000 have been arrested and media outlets have been shut.

“Turkey under Mr Erdogan is more and more drifting towards an authoritarian regime,” Pitella said, referring to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“Our political message towards Turkey is that human rights, civil rights, democracy are non negotiable if you want to be part of the EU.

Erdogan, exasperated with the EU’s intensified criticism of his rights record, has said the bloc would have to “live with the consequences” should it stop the talks and that Ankara could instead join an security alliance run by Russia and China.

The post-coup crackdown has taken the EU aback, annulling a period of warmer tone between Turkey and the bloc, which had promised as recently as last March to speed up Ankara’s accession talks in exchange for its help in keeping migrants away from European shores.

This cooperation, critical for the EU, is still going on but some in the EU worry it could eventually fall victim to the spiraling recriminations.

Erdogan, who blames the EU for not showing enough understanding for the gravity of the situation in Turkey, said he could put the EU talks to a national referendum next year.

Turkey still hopes to win visa-free travel to the EU but earlier promises of granting the privilege to Ankara by the end of the year now seem distant.

Among EU countries, Austria and Luxembourg have led calls to stop Turkey’s membership talks, which have only made very limited progress over 11 years in any case.

But Germany, France and most of the other EU states for now back continued engagement and fear putting at risk Turkey’s collaboration on migration.

All stress, however, that the talks would come to an end should Turkey reinstate the death penalty.

(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier, writing by Gabriela Baczynska Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)