Turkey's Erdogan: EU membership remains strategic goal

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday (Mar 26) meets the leaders of the EU's top bodies for a potentially stormy encounter that will seek ways to fix an increasingly fractured relationship.

"Our operations against terrorism do not just contribute to our and the Syrians' security, but to Europe's security as well", Erdogan said.

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters at the Black Sea port city of Varna: "I raised all our concerns, as you know it was a long list". "We do not accept the position that Bulgaria hosted a meeting between two parties - Europe and Turkey - because Bulgaria is Europe, we are in the EU", Ninova stressed, adding that the country can not be a third party observing the process.

Talks with President Erdogan on Monday offered no answers to a long list of concerns from the European Union, including Turkey's intervention in Syria and the jailing of journalists at home.

Despite criticism from European governments by what many see as growing authoritarianism under Erdogan's regime, EU leaders left the door open to Turkey's stalled bid for membership to the bloc but said only Erdogan was capable of removing the obstacles that keep Turkey from furthering its accession.

Erdogan also addressed the issue of Cyprus.

Tusk said that the Varna meeting had "demonstrated that while our relationship is going through hard times, in areas where we do cooperate, we cooperate well".

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Brussels has repeatedly criticised the post coup crackdown which has seen almost 160,000 people arrested, including dozens of journalists.

The Turkish and Russian presidents on Tuesday discussed an upcoming three-nation leaders' summit on Syria over the phone, Turkish presidential sources said.

Iraqi Prime Minister has urged military to boost members around the country's border with Turkey, as tensions with Ankara mount over the presence of Kurdish militias in the area. He also praised success of a Turkey-EU refugee agreement saying it has showed "visible results".

"The EU uses double standards in relation to Turkey, but this does not mean that all EU countries do not want to see Turkey within the Union", Cavusoglu said.

Juncker insisted that he was not in favour of stopping negotiations with Turkey but urged Ankara to improve relations with member states like Cyprus and Greece.

The EU also expressed its objections to Turkey's military ongoing operations in Syria's Afrin region and a standoff over Mediterranean gas with EU members Greece and Cyprus.

But, Hassan said, PKK fighters had actually already withdrawn late a year ago, after government forces regained control of Sinjar.