WORLD / EUROPE
Official urges Erdogan to be cooperative amid talks
EU seeks new chapter with Turkey
Published: Apr 05, 2021 09:28 PM
The EU's top two officials head to Turkey on Tuesday to lay out to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the bloc's conditions for improved ties after a dip in tensions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Council President Charles Michel participate in a video conference meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, March 19, 2021. Photo: VCG

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Council President Charles Michel participate in a video conference meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, March 19. Photo: VCG

European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will hold out the prospect of key economic and diplomatic gains for Ankara, including more funding for Turkey's hosting of millions of Syrian refugees. But the roadmap for relaunching cooperation - agreed by EU leaders at a summit in March - depends on Erdogan acting constructively and continuing to de-escalate tensions over Turkey's gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

An EU official said Tuesday's meeting in Ankara "will not be the moment for negotiations, but will provide a framework" on the way forward.

The bloc has been encouraged by conciliatory moves from Ankara over the past few months, including the resumption of talks with Greece over a disputed maritime border and steps to restart UN peace efforts for divided EU member state Cyprus.

Brussels' "carrot-and-stick" approach entails the possibility of modernizing a customs union, liberalizing visa rules, more money for Syrian refugees and a resumption of high-level dialogues on topics from security to health. But any steps would be "phased, proportionate and reversible," and if Ankara backtracks then the EU has warned it could slap painful sanctions on the country.

"If Erdogan does not show himself to be cooperative then everything will be blocked," the official warned.

Convincing the Turkish leader to accept the conditions will not be easy and he has already pressed the EU to move faster towards "concrete results." But analysts and diplomats say Erdogan has become more pliant in the face of economic woes at home and a toughening line from Washington after his ally Donald Trump was voted out of the White House.

EU members have been split over how to handle Turkey, with Cyprus, Greece and France urging a tough line while others, led by economic powerhouse Germany, want more engagement.

Ankara formally opened talks to join the bloc in 2005 but that process has become frozen as Erdogan tightened his grip over the country.

The bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insists the latest offer of cooperation from the bloc's leaders "could be a new chapter in EU-Turkey relations" after 2020's nadir.

"The situation remains fragile, but the EU welcomes these forthcoming developments and gestures on the part of Turkey and has responded by extending its hand," he wrote.  

EU leaders remain deeply wary of Erdogan and there are major concerns on rights after Ankara's recent withdrawal from a global treaty on violence against women and moves to ban a pro-Kurdish opposition party.
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