Erdogan tells Merkel he wants Turkey-EU summit by July

File photo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) receives a mirror as a present from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), during the Turkish-German University's new facilities opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, 24 January 2020. [Tolga Bozoglou/EPA/EFE]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a video call Monday (8 February) he hopes for a summit with European Union leaders in the first half of 2021 to ease tensions.

Erdoğan said he hoped the meeting could be organised before Portugal — seen as friendly by Ankara — gives up the bloc’s rotating presidency, his office said in a statement on the exchange.

But with relations between the EU and Turkey strained, especially by Ankara’s gas exploration push in the eastern Mediterranean last year, Brussels said last month that “credible gestures” from Erdoğan are needed to patch things up.

After outrage from member states Greece and Cyprus, EU leaders in December agreed to add new Turkish individuals to a sanctions blacklist and draw up options for tougher punishments.

Since then the rhetoric has mellowed dramatically as Erdoğan insisted he wanted to “turn a new page”.

The last EU-Turkey “summit” was held on 26 May 2018 under Bulgarian Presidency, in Varna. The EU was represented by the then EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, the then Council President Donald Tusk and the PM of the host country Boyko Borissov, who strongly lobbied for the summit to be held.

Borissov says Varna summit with Erdogan should be held

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has hinted that the planned ‘leaders’ meeting’ with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should go ahead, despite conditions imposed by Cyprus in February, his press service said on Thursday (22 March).

Ahead of a new leaders’ summit on 25-26 March, Erdoğan told Merkel Monday that he hoped for “a positive agenda” in Turkey-EU relations.

In its own statement, Merkel’s office said she had welcomed “recent positive signals and developments in the eastern Mediterranean”.

Discord remains on other fronts between the neighbours, with the EU last week condemning Turkey’s detentions of university students and Erdoğan’s use of anti-LGBT “hate speech”.

A harsh crackdown against demonstrators protesting the installation of an Erdoğan loyalist as head of their university prompted Brussels to warn of “negative developments in Turkey in… the rule of law, human rights and the judiciary”.

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