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EU chiefs to hold video call with Turkey's Erdogan on Friday

The EU and Turkey seek to improve troubled relations [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 March, 2021

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European Union leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel will hold video talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, seeking to improve troubled relations.

European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel will hold a video conference with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, EU spokespeople have said. 

The talks come as the two neighbours seek to improve ties after a spike in tensions last year over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean.

The leaders of the EU's 27 member states are set to discuss the states of relations with Ankara at a summit in Brussels next week.

Relations plummeted after Ankara repeatedly sent a ship to search for gas deposits in disputed waters, angering the bloc and its member states Greece and Cyprus.

But both sides have been looking to smooth over the differences as Ankara resumed talks with Athens and extended an olive branch to the EU.

The warming ties have seen sanctions agreed on in December by EU leaders put on the back burner over fears of slamming the brakes on the rapprochement.

Read more: How EU sanctions on Turkey reveal a divided Europe

Friday's talks come on the fifth anniversary of a major deal signed between the EU and Turkey to reduce the number of refugees coming mainly from the conflict in Syria crossing into the bloc.

The accord has seen Ankara stem the flow of refugees in return for billions of euros in aid - but it has not stopped sniping from both sides and Turkey wants it reviewed.

The EU is also closely following UN efforts to restart peace talks over the situation in member state Cyprus, in which Turkey is a key player.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will convene an informal meeting in April involving main international actors Greece, Turkey and Britain to explore how to break the deadlock.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by the military junta then in power in Athens aimed at annexing the island to Greece.

The Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally recognised government, is a member of the European Union and exercises its authority over the southern part of the eastern Mediterranean island.

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