EU top officials to meet Turkish president next week

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top officials will travel to Turkey next week for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after EU leaders agreed to improve cooperation on migration and trade with Ankara.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel will make the trip to Turkey on April 6, Michel’s press service said on Monday.

EU leaders last week offered new incentives to Turkey despite democratic backsliding in the country and lingering concerns about its energy ambitions in the Mediterranean Sea. Seizing on a recent conciliatory tone from Erdogan, the leaders said the EU is ready “to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation in a number of areas of common interest.”

The leaders also tasked the EU’s executive body to build on the EU-Turkey migrant agreement from 2016 and explore ways to continue to help finance the estimated 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as those in Jordan and Lebanon.

That deal massively reduced migrant arrivals on the Greek islands — which lie close to Turkey’s western coast — compared to 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people landed on European shores. Under it, the EU offered Ankara 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to help Syrian refugees, and other incentives to prevent people from leaving Turkey to go to Europe.

The EU leaders said they will assess progress again on EU-Turkey ties when they meet in June.

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