German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her fellow leaders on Thursday to cut European Union funds to Turkey that are linked to Ankara's bid to join the bloc and immediately found backing from Belgium and the Netherlands.

While praising Turkey for taking in Syrian refugees, Merkel stuck with the tougher tone she adopted during her reelection campaign last month, although she stopped short of calling for an outright end to Ankara's decade-long push to join the bloc.

"The rule of law in Turkey is moving in the wrong direction," Merkel said as she arrived for the EU summit, in a reference to the large-scale purge that President Tayyip Erdogan has carried out following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

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