ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and European Union chiefs discussed eastern Mediterranean tensions and Turkey-EU ties in a video call on Friday, ahead of an EU summit due to address fraught relations with Ankara.
Last year, tensions flared over a decades-old dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime jurisdiction in the Mediterranean. Both have accused each other of illegal actions, while the EU has backed member state Greece.
EU leaders had threatened punitive measures against Ankara over its offshore activities. But Reuters reported Thursday the EU froze plans for further measures against executives at state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) after Turkey withdrew a research vessel from disputed waters.
The Turkish presidency said Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Ankara had maintained its “constructive approach” in the Mediterranean despite “provocations” from Greece and Cyprus.
“President Erdogan said he expected a result from the March 25-26 EU summit that will pave the way for concrete efforts” to move forward, it said in a statement, adding Erdogan had repeated a proposal for a regional eastern Mediterranean conference.
Ankara and Athens have resumed talks over their dispute, easing months of tensions. Their foreign ministers are expected to meet in Ankara next month.
In a separate statement, the European Commission said “the EU side underlined the importance of sustained de-escalation and of further strengthening confidence-building to allow for a more positive EU-Turkey agenda”.
Turkey, an EU candidate since 2005, has repeatedly urged the 27-nation bloc to update a 2016 migrant deal under which it curbed entries into Europe in exchange for EU financial support, saying the bloc has not kept its promises.
Erdogan said on Friday the migrant burden on Turkey was rising and that talks over Ankara’s accession, visa-free travel, and customs union with the bloc must be restructured, according to his office.
He also told the EU leaders that “realistic and new” options should be discussed at next month’s U.N-brokered talks over the island of Cyprus, partitioned between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974. Turkey, a guarantor country along with Britain and Greece, backs Turkish Cypriots in the island’s north.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu with additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Brussels Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich