Turkey

‘Turkey, EU need concrete steps for positive atmosphere’

Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu meets top EU officials in 2-day visit to Brussels

Rabia Iclal Turan   | 21.01.2021
‘Turkey, EU need concrete steps for positive atmosphere’ Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell (R) hold a joint press conference ahead of their meeting in Brussels, Belgium on January 21, 2021. ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )

ANKARA

The Turkish foreign minister said Thursday it is important to establish a positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties and that concrete steps are needed to make it sustainable.

Mevlut Cavusoglu arrived in Brussels Wednesday evening for a two-day visit for talks with top EU and NATO officials. 

Speaking at a joint news conference with the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Cavusoglu said: “It’s very important to create a positive atmosphere but in order for that agenda to be sustainable we need concrete steps by both sides.”

Adding that 2020 was a problematic year for Turkey-EU relations Cavusoglu said both sides showed their will for a more positive atmosphere after the joint statement released following the EU leaders summit in December.

“Since then both sides have expressed will, in order to create a positive atmosphere for the developments of ties between the two sides.”

Cavusoglu said he and his EU counterpart Borrell will discuss a wide range of issues concerning the EU-Turkey relations ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's planned meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We are going to talk about the migration deal that Turkey has already proposed for the renewal. We are also going to talk about the details of a multilateral conference on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he told reporters. 

Some other issues such as visa liberalization, modernization of Turkey’s 1995 Customs Union with the EU, and “other concrete steps which will build the future of the EU and Turkey together” will also be on the agenda, Cavusoglu said.

Turkish and the EU officials will also discuss developing joint solutions for other regional challenges.

Borrell said in the same news conference that although the last year has been complicated for the EU-Turkey relations, 2021 has already seen an improvement and some important steps.

 “This meeting today is also an important step in the direction of looking for mutual strategic interest,” he added.

Describing the announcement of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece as “another good step”, Borrell stressed: “Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions."

Borrell noted that another important step was the efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for restarting talks between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders.

“We are fully committed to support a speedy resumption of those negotiations. We strongly wish to see a sustainable de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.

Adding that both sides were engaged in a substantive dialogue on regional issues, he said their talks would also include discussions on recent developments in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Describing EU candidate Turkey as an important partner and neighbor of the 27-member bloc, Borrell said: 

“We'll talk also about, with full respect to each other and in a frankly and open way, the political situation in Turkey.”

Turkey-EU relations 

Turkey-EU relations had been tense until the end of 2020, due to the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean. But the relations gained momentum this month after both sides repeatedly expressed their will to establish a positive agenda.

Speaking at a meeting with the ambassadors of the EU member states in Ankara on Jan. 12, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is ready to set a "positive agenda" with the EU, adding that he expected the envoys to support "turning a new page" in relations.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Ankara on Monday for talks with his Turkish counterpart. He said Germany welcomed recent diplomatic initiatives by Turkey and expected this positive momentum to continue.

Turkey and Greece announced last week that they will resume the exploratory talks on Jan. 25 in Istanbul after a four-year hiatus.Talks are expected to focus on bilateral disputes, including maritime boundaries and drilling rights in the region.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that the excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara sent several drill ships last year to explore for energy in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations.

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