WORLD

Brussels reaffirms Turkey's strategic importance for bloc

"We reaffirmed importance we attach to relations with Turkey which is a candidate country, a partner of strategic importance to EU. the cooperation between Turkey and the EU is important both for Syrian refugees and a political solution in the civil war-weary country," EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told Turkey-EU Association Council meeting in Brussels.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Friday stressed the importance of relations between EU and Turkey, calling Ankara "a partner of strategic importance to EU."

"We reaffirmed importance we attach to relations with Turkey which is a candidate country, a partner of strategic importance to EU," Mogherini told the 54th Turkey-EU Association Council meeting in Brussels.

Mogherini stressed the importance of open and frank dialogue in order to address common challenges in areas of joint interest such as migration, counter-terrorism, energy, transport, the economy, and trade.

The meeting of the highest decision-making body between Turkey and the EU took place after a hiatus of almost four years, and is important for the continuation and diversification of institutional dialogue with the bloc.

It also follows the European Parliament's passage this week of a non-binding report calling for the suspension of Turkey's EU accession talks. Turkey attacked the report, calling it biased, groundless, and effectively null and void.

In addition to Mogherini, attending Friday's meeting were Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı, and Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.

The meeting addressed Turkey's EU accession, political and economic criteria, alignment to EU acquis, visa liberalization talks, Customs Union and financial cooperation.

- PRAISING TURKEY ON SYRIAN REFUGEES
Mogherini strongly commended Turkey's significant efforts in hosting and addressing the needs of approximately 4 million refugees, including some 3.5 million Syrian refugees -- more than any other country in the world.

She also underlined continued implementation of the March 2016 EU-Turkey agreement on ending irregular migration, saying it is in the interest of both sides.

Turkey has complained that while it held up its end of the deal, the EU has not, breaking promises on visa liberalization and lagging in delivering promised aid for Syrian refugees.

Mogherini welcomed the comprehensive and regular EU-Turkey political dialogue, which allows for further reviewing a broad range of foreign policy issues of common interest, notably Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Middle East peace process, Libya, and the situation in the Gulf.

She also said cooperation between Turkey and the EU is important both for Syrian refugees and a political solution in the civil war-weary country.

On Turkey's fight against terrorism, Mogherini said the EU will maintain its support for Turkey's counter-terror efforts.

"The EU lists PKK as a terrorist group, and this is not a discussion among member states," she said.

In its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken some 40,000 lives, including many women and children.

Turkey has complained that EU states have failed to enforce bans on the terrorist group as well as of European Parliament members honoring PKK terrorists.

Mogherini also said Turkey is an important trade partner for the EU, adding: "The economic links between Turkey and the EU are strong."

The last meeting of the council was held in May 2015, in Brussels.

The Turkey-EU Association Council was established in line with the Ankara Agreement, which entered into force in 1964.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987, and accession talks began in 2005.

However, negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus, as well as opposition from Germany and France.

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