Amid signs of improving ties between Turkey and the EU, Turkey’s president on Tuesday received top EU officials paying an official visit to the country.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Charles Michel, head of the EU Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission, at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara.
Following the nearly three-hour meeting, at a press conference at the EU Delegation to Turkey, Michel said: "The EU is ready to present a concrete agenda to strengthen cooperation on the economy and immigration, and inter-societal ties."
He added that the EU recognizes the strategic importance of mutually beneficial and positive relations with Turkey and security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Leyen stressed that the visit was meant to give an impetus to Turkish-EU relations, adding that areas of mutually beneficial cooperation were covered during their meeting with Erdogan.
Noting that Turkey was currently hosting 4 million refugees, Leyen underlined that Brussels would continue providing aid to them, as well their host country.
On the two sides' intense mutual economic relations, she pointed out that the EU is Turkey’s number-one export and import partner.
She said Brussels and Ankara would continue to deal with the current challenges in implementing their Customs Union and eventually start work on updating it, referring to a 1995 trade deal between Turkey and the bloc.
Leyen said the meeting with Erdogan was held in a sincere atmosphere and voiced intentions to build better relations.
However, she said the sides were yet at the initial stages of this effort, adding that the coming weeks and months would show how much progress would be possible.
Agreeing with Leyen on the multi-dimensional and extensive nature of relations between Turkey and the EU, Michel said efforts to deepen cooperation with Ankara in the economy, immigration and inter-societal relations would continue in a gradual and proportional way.
He expressed appreciation for Turkey's efforts to host refugees and upheld Leyen's position that the EU should continue to provide aid to Turkey in this context.
Michel also noted that the EU's concerns on the rule of law in TUrkey had been conveyed to President Erdogan during the meeting
The EU Council chief had also held a meeting with the US ambassador to Turkey on Monday evening.
According to an EU source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the US and EU share a number of concerns but are equally fully aligned on the need for a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean, and of a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between EU and Turkey.
Washington and Brussels agree that it is up to Turkey to seize the opportunity, the source noted.
Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece, an EU member, has disputed Turkey's rights to energy exploration.
Turkey -- the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean -- sent out drill ships to explore for energy resources on its continental shelf, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Greece has made maximalist maritime territorial boundary claims based on small islands just kilometers off the Turkish coast. To reduce tensions, Ankara has called for dialogue and negotiations to ensure fair sharing of the region's resources.
* Writing by Ahmet GencturkAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.