BRUSSELS — Turkey’s president warned Europe on Friday that his nation could unleash another migrant crisis in the West, sharply raising the stakes after E.U. lawmakers called for a suspension in membership talks with Turkey.
Quarrels over Turkey’s bid to join the European Union have flared for decades, and the vote Thursday by the European Parliament to freeze membership dialogue was largely symbolic.
But the latest rift underscored the elevated risks amid new political pressures on both sides more than 10 months after a E.U.-Turkey pact that greatly slowed a surge of more than 1 million migrants and refugees into Europe.
In Turkey, pro-government forces have arrested or dismissed tens of thousands of people — from high-ranking military figures to teachers and civil servants — after a failed coup in July.
The crackdowns have prompted a sharp outcry from international rights groups and others. But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed the West has failed to stand by its NATO ally in a time of need, and he has resisted appeals to ease the purges.
In Europe, political leaders are increasingly uneasy about openings to Turkey as Erdogan’s government tightens its grip against perceived opposition, including journalists and activists. Europe is also facing the rise of populist political factions, such as France’s National Front, and others that oppose closer cooperation with Turkey.
The European Parliament’s resolution — made in response to Turkey’s sweeps — is nonbinding and does not force E.U. leaders to change their policies toward Turkey. But it prompted an angry response from Erdogan, who claimed that European leaders “betrayed” their promises.
In his first speech since the vote, Erdogan warned that any further steps to mothball membership talks or sideline Turkish exchanges with the E.U. could set another migrant wave in motion.
“If you go any further, those border gates will be opened,” Erdogan said in a televised address, making specific reference to Turkey’s border crossing with E.U. member Bulgaria.
In March, a two-part agreement was reached to cut the flow of migrants: Turkey would stem the flow of migrants traveling by sea to Greece in exchange for incentives including fast-tracked membership talks, billions of euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
It is unclear whether Turkey could follow through with a threat to reopen routes for migrants, and any such move could be met with border closings on the E.U. side.
Yet Erdogan’s warning reflected one of Turkey’s strongest points of leverage over the E.U.
Turkey hosts one of the world’s largest refugee populations — an estimated 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis, among others. At the same time, Europe is also dealing with the major resurgence of migrant boats making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from northern Africa.
Authorities also are worried about widening unrest in migrant settlements created as borders closed last year along the route from the Aegean Sea to northern Europe.
On the Greek island of Lesbos, migrants at a crowded camp clashed with police during a blaze that killed a woman and young boy, officials said Friday. In southern Bulgaria, authorities detained about 400 migrants, mostly Afghans, after riots broke out Thursday when quarantine restrictions were imposed.
The unelected E.U. officials in charge of conducting the talks with Turkey have said that they are a valuable channel of dialogue and influence over Ankara, despite the crackdown.
But elected lawmakers have become increasingly skeptical of the negotiations.
“Let’s not fool ourselves anymore. We know altogether that this is not in compliance with European values,” said Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium who was one of the leaders of the effort inside the European Parliament to condemn Turkey. “You have to freeze the accession talks for the moment.”
But even if Europe does not break off talks as a result of the parliamentary decision, a collapse could be imminent anyway.
Erdogan has talked about restoring the death penalty in Turkey, a move that would immediately close the door to E.U. membership since capital punishment is banned in the bloc.
In a sign of the concerns about possible further breaks with Turkey, a statement by Germany’s Foreign Ministry urged for dialogue to continue at the moment.
“It is important that we keep talking,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told reporters in Berlin.
“It is important that we do not freeze the accession negotiations,” she added, “because that would only further damage the relationship between Turkey and Europe, and that would not be in the interest of Turkey or of Europe.”
Murphy reported from Washington.