Turkey sees EU summit as chance for reset – Erdogan spokesman


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© Reuters. Turkish President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin is pictured during an interview in Istanbul

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By Orhan Coskun and Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey sees a European Union summit this week as an opportunity to reset relations between them, but the bloc must produce specific proposals and a timetable to work on a roadmap together, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said.

Tensions flared between Turkey and EU member Greece after Ankara sent a seismic vessel to explore for hydrocarbons in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean last month and the Oct. 1-2 summit aims to calm the bitter dispute.

A Turkish and a Greek warship collided during the standoff and Turkey has since recalled the Oruc Reis vessel to allow for diplomacy. Ankara and Athens have agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims.

However, the row has also brought to a head strains between EU candidate Turkey and the bloc over issues such as migration, Turkey’s involvement in Syria and Libya and what the EU says is growing authoritarianism under Erdogan.

“I believe the EU summit has a chance to have a reset in Turkey-EU relations. It is an important opportunity. We can have a reset there. And I see this willingness on the part of many EU member countries,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters.

“They also have to understand that they cannot expect Turkey to do everything,” Kalin said in an interview. “It must be a mutual process. If Turkey is expected to do X, Y, Z, EU countries must fulfil their responsibilities as well.”

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Senior EU diplomats and officials have said the bloc is unlikely to follow through on a threat to impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara’s agreement last week to resume exploratory talks with Greece, which were halted in 2016.

Work was continuing on deciding a date for the resumption of talks, Kalin said, adding the talks would continue where they left off and focus not just on issues of continental shelves and maritime limits, but on islands and air space.

He said he believed the talks would have a positive impact and would also focus on political consultation and military-to-military talks. “In all of these three tracks we believe we will make some good progress very soon,” he said.

Turkey got involved in a war of words with France during the east Mediterranean dispute and Erdogan last week held his first talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in months in a bid to ease the tensions.

Kalin said there was a positive atmosphere in those talks with the two leaders agreeing to try and find ways to minimise their differences.

“I believe all these things will produce a more positive agenda and a more positive atmosphere between Turkey and France,” he said.

 

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