TURKEY

Bulgarian FM sees 'improvement' in Turkish-EU ties

Bulgaria's foreign minister on Monday voiced hope that Turkey's relations with the European Union would improve during her country's turn at the bloc's presidency.

"Neither the successful protection of the EU's external borders nor the fight against terrorism will succeed without a close partnership with Turkey," Ekaterina Zakharieva told Bulgarian National Television (BNT).

Zakharieva also said Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's just-concluded visit to Turkey had provided an opportunity to discuss bilateral, regional, and global issues.

She accompanied Borisov when he met on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

In the meeting, "we agreed that we need to focus on positive things without ignoring the problems between friends," she said.

On Turkey's relations with the EU, Zakharieva said: "We are receiving positive signals in EU-Turkish relations."

Bulgaria holds the sixth-month rotating presidency of the Council of European Union through July 2018.

Zakharieva underlined that Turkey is an important economic partner to both Bulgaria and the EU and vowed that relations would be strengthened further.

"Considering the positive developments over the last two months, I think it is possible to hold an EU-Turkey summit, despite one not being included in Bulgaria's EU Council Presidency calendar," she said.

Pointing out that Sofia would host a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans this May, she added, "This doesn't mean there won't be a meeting on EU-Turkish relations".

"I think there are many things that can be done to normalize the EU's relations with Turkey during Bulgaria's presidency," she added.

She also touched on Sunday's reopening ceremony of Istanbul's historic Bulgarian Iron Church, also known as St. Stephen, which was attended by Erdogan, Yildirim, and Borisov.

Zakharieva called the ceremony "a good example of how inter-faith relations should be," stressing that "religious and cultural heritage must be protected."

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