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Turkey-EU: Erdogan says he wants to “put relations with Europe back on track”

LTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he was ready to “put back on track” relations between Turkey and the European Union, crossed by strong tensions on many issues, including exploration for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean .

Breaking with the inflammatory language he often uses towards European leaders, Erdogan made this gesture of openness in a speech to the ambassadors of EU countries in Turkey, which he received at the presidential complex in Ankara.

Calls for dialogue with Europeans

“We are ready to put our relations back on track,” said Erdogan, adding: “our European friends will show the same will”.

For several weeks, Turkish officials have been increasing calls for dialogue with Europeans to resolve the issues of tension, which, in addition to the Greek-Turkish maritime dispute in the eastern Mediterranean, relate in particular to the role of Turkey in the conflicts in Syria, in particular. Libya and more recently in Nagorno Karabakh.

This apparent desire for appeasement comes as Ankara worries about a possible American hardening on it, with the imminent assumption of office of a new Democratic administration in Washington, and to see heavier sanctions imposed by the ‘EU, likely to further plague the Turkish economy.

In December, the leaders of the European Union, meeting in summit in Brussels, decided to sanction the “illegal and aggressive” actions of Turkey in the Mediterranean against Greece and Cyprus.

The EU summit contented itself with adopting individual sanctions that were supposed to target people involved in Turkey’s exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean and thus sparing at this stage sectors of the Turkish economy. .

These gas exploration work carried out by Turkey in disputed maritime areas with Greece and Cyprus had been at the center of tensions for months.

The crisis intensified with the deployment in August by Turkey of the seismic research vessel Oruç Reis in the disputed areas.

“Making 2021 a successful year for EU-Turkey relations is within our grasp. We can achieve this by working with a long-term vision, far from prejudices and apprehensions, ”Mr. Erdogan said.

” A new page ”

And he asked diplomats for their “support” to “open a new page in relations between Turkey and the European Union”.

His statements come the day after the announcement of the resumption, on January 25 in Istanbul, of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece with a view to settling their dispute over hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Although Turkey’s EU accession process launched in 2005 has stalled for several years, Erdogan reiterated that his country still aspires to be part of the bloc, arguing that the UK’s departure could play in favor of Ankara.

“The uncertainty created by Brexit could be overcome if Turkey takes the place it deserves in the EU family,” he said.

In an attempt to calm tensions with the EU, the head of Turkish diplomacy Mevlüt Cavusoglu is expected on January 21 in Brussels. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel are also due in Turkey at the end of January, according to Erdogan.

In addition to the disputes between Turkey and the EU as a bloc, Mr. Erdogan spoke during his speech about the particularly tense relations between Ankara and Paris and expressed the wish for a future normalization.

“Save our relations with France”

Tensions between the two countries were heightened in October when Erdogan questioned the “sanity” of French President Emmanuel Macron, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam for defending the law. for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad, and for his speech against Islamist “separatism” in France.

“We want to save our relations with France, which is our neighbor because it is a country bordering the Mediterranean, from this phase of tensions”, assured Mr. Erdogan.

Speaking in Brussels, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, estimated that “the firmness of the EU (towards Turkey) is bearing fruit”.

“We are recording signals and statements from Turkey. We accept the omen. Let’s see if they materialize, ”he added.

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