EU’s von der Leyen considers visiting Turkey as ties defrost

EU’s von der Leyen considers visiting Turkey as ties defrost

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is considering making a trip to Turkey after a European Union summit next week at which the latest improvement in strained ties with Ankara is set to be discussed.

The EU threatened Ankara with sanctions last year after a flare-up in a decades-old dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime jurisdiction and energy resources in the Mediterranean.

But, in a sign that relations are improving, the EU said in a statement after a videoconference between von der Leyen and President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday that they had discussed the possibility of her visiting Turkey.

“We underlined the importance of sustained de-escalation and of further strengthening confidence building to allow for a more positive EU-Turkey agenda,” von der Leyen, who heads the EU executive, said on Twitter.

At their March 25-26 summit, EU leaders are expected to discuss updating a 2016 migrant deal under which Turkey has curbed entries into Europe in exchange for EU financial support.

European leaders on Thursday criticised Turkey’s decision to ban a pro-Kurdish political party, the country’s third largest, saying the move undermined democracy.

But in a sign that relations are improving, diplomats say the EU has frozen plans to take further measures against executives at state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) over Turkey’s “unauthorised drilling activities” for natural gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

EU leaders had in December proposed asset freezes and travel bans over the drilling activities but the diplomats told Reuters that Erdogan’s tone had been more constructive this year.


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