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Erdoğan wants Turkey-EU summit by July

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shake hands after a joint news conference on January 24, 2020 in Istanbul. Ozan KOSE / AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a video call Monday he hopes for a summit with European Union leaders in the first half of 2021 to ease tensions, Agence France-Presse reported.

Erdoğan said he hoped the meeting could be organized 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.”

Ahead of a new leaders’ summit on March 25-26, Erdogan 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 neighbors, with the EU last week condemning Turkey’s detentions of university students and Erdoğan’s use of anti-LGBT hate speech.

A harsh crackdown on 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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