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EU leaders visit Turkey to test water and mend broken ties

05:52 07 April 2021 Author :  

The two top EU officials are due to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday on a rare visit aimed at resuscitating torn ties.

Brussels is expected to offer incentives to establish a roadmap for cooperation as agreed by EU leaders last month.

What debates are likely to cover?

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen were to offer key economic and diplomatic incentives to Ankara.

Benefits to Turkey could include modernizing a customs union and liberalizing visa rules.

A resumption of high-level dialogues on issues such as safety and health is also likely to be considered.

Brussels should provide more funding to welcome millions of Syrian refugees to Turkey.

The roadmap for improved cooperation will depend on Erdogan’s action to defuse tensions with neighboring Greece and Cyprus.

Problems could include Turkey’s gas exploration project in the eastern Mediterranean and future talks on the divided island of Cyprus.

Why are the talks taking place now?

The 27-member bloc has been encouraged by Turkey’s conciliatory measures in recent months.

These include the resumption of talks with Greece over a disputed maritime border and engagement in UN peace efforts with Cyprus, an EU member state.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc’s latest offer “could be a new chapter in EU-Turkey relations” after relations bottomed out last year.

“The situation remains fragile, but the EU welcomes these forthcoming developments and gestures from Turkey and has responded by extending its hand,” he said.

Erdogan met the two EU leaders in Brussels last month, where they expressed their commitment to upholding the 2016 refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey.

How much do both sides want to progress?

For Turkey, the possible thaw in relations coincides with domestic economic turmoil – and a harder line from Washington after Erdogan’s ally Donald Trump was elected to the White House.

EU members are divided on how to proceed with Turkey. Cyprus, Greece and France are urging a firm line while others, led by Germany, want more engagement.

An EU official told UKTN news agency that the Ankara meeting “will not be the time for negotiations, but will provide a framework” on progress. All steps to be taken should be “phased, proportionate and reversible”.

“If Erdogan is not cooperative, everything will be blocked,” the official told UKTN.

The EU has warned that sanctions are an option if Turkey revives “illegal” energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean./ agencies

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