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Turkey launches charm offensive to repair relations with EU

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By Efi Koutsokosta
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Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell leave after giving a joint statement prior to their meeting in Brussels
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell leave after giving a joint statement prior to their meeting in Brussels   -   Copyright  Stephanie Lecocq/AP
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Turkey says it wishes to turn a new page with the European Union, after a turbulent 2020 that saw relations between the two deteriorate.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, met with the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in Brussels on Thursday, where he expressed his country's desire to get things back on track with the 27-member bloc.

"2020 was a problematic year in terms of bilateral relations between Turkey and the EU, which resulted in repercussions at December's EU leaders summit and its joint declaration," Çavuşoğlu told reporters.

But he added: "Since then, both sides expressed the will in order to create a positive atmosphere for the development of ties between the two sides."

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweets about meeting with Josep Borrell in Brussels

Turkey's charm offensive comes after months of difficulties between Ankara and Brussels, with EU leaders agreeing to the use of targeted sanctions at the end of December, aimed at punishing the Turkish actors involved in drilling and gas exploration in the East Meditteranean.

President Erdogan has also been accused of provoking the delicate situation in Northern Cyprus, which is recognised by the international community as being illegally occupied by Turkey.

But on Thursday, Ankara was sending out a different message, with the country's foreign minister looking to talk about a "positive agenda" including on migration, visa liberalisation and modernisation of the Customs Union, talks that have been frozen for some time now.

Borrell welcomed the Turkish gestures to defuse the tensions, however, saying: "Another good step is the announced resumption of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece. We strongly wish to see a sustainable de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean but also in the wider region."

But Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister and ex-NATO Secretary-General told Euronews that the change in the US administration is driving the shift in Turkish behaviour.

"There is no reason to hide the fact that Turkey has created a lot of problems purchasing Russian military equipment that is not compatible with NATO equipment and flexing its muscles in the Mediterranean, in Libya, in Syria etc," Rasmussen explained.

"However, we do need a close alliance with Turkey and I think the election of President Biden has created a new situation. Erdogan realises that now that Trump has been kicked out as President, he doesn't have an ally in the White House, so he has to behave."