Brussels wants to deepen political dialogue with Ankara, EU official says

MUSTAFA KIRIKÇIOĞLU @MKirikcioglu
ANKARA
Published 21.11.2018 21:34
Updated 23.11.2018 15:14

A European Union official said on Tuesday that today's high-level meeting with Turkish officials is "very important" because the bloc wants to keep communication channels open, emphasizing that the relations between member states and Ankara are at a much better point compared to recent years.

Speaking in Ankara to a group of reporters prior to the Turkey-EU Meeting, the official, who did not want to be named, said that delegations will focus on political developments including Syria, Jerusalem and the broader region as well as issues relating to Ankara's accession process including customs union and visa liberalization.

"We want to deepen our dialogue with the [Turkish] Foreign Ministry on policy issues. [Also] there will be, hopefully, a closer understanding on counterterrorism and concrete proposal of cooperation," the official said.

Responding to a question on whether any concrete steps should be expected from the meeting, the official said that "it depends on many issues" including Turkey's relations with member states, which was described as "vital," adding that it is not a "meeting of big announcements but the meeting keeps the machine oiled and moving." "[Turkey's] relations with Germany, Netherlands and Austria are much better now. It is also important how Turkey will continue on domestic issues," the official said.

Turkey's bilateral ties with Germany have entered a new era with reciprocal visits in recent months, where the desire for leaving tensions behind and improving ties was expressed from both sides' officials. Also, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok visited Turkey in October and welcomes a new period with Turkey after ambassadors were reinstated in Ankara and The Hague in September.

Stressing that the EU had welcomed the outcome of Ankara's Reform Action Group (RAG) meeting in August, the official said that the member states are linking the reform process with other issues such as an update in customs union and visa liberalization.

With an aim of turning a new page in accession talks, Turkey decided in the RAG meeting in September to implement new reforms. According to the meeting, Turkey will prioritize reforms linked to its EU accession process in the coming period and expects to see results from its efforts, including on the issue of visa liberalization.

Ankara has promised to work on accelerating political reforms, focusing on the judiciary, freedoms and fundamental rights.

The EU official said that the bloc is "very appreciative" of Turkey's efforts on Idlib to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe which would "mean more people being pushed across the border."

Turkey and Russia reached an agreement in Sochi on Sept. 17 to establish a buffer zone cleared of heavy weapons and radical groups, and to preserve a cease-fire to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

Prior to the agreement, Syria's Bashar Assad regime was preparing for a full-scale attack on the city, the last stronghold of the opposition. It was feared that the full-scale attack on Idlib would cause a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, which is home to about 3.5 million Syrians, including the internally displaced.

The official also said that there is not much difference regarding the opinions of Turkey and the EU on Jerusalem and nothing should prevent Jerusalem from serving as the capital of both states.

"We also support the U.N. Security Council resolution that called all members move their embassies to Tel-Aviv in protest of the annexation east Jerusalem by Israel," the official said.

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