The EU is ready to cooperate with Turkey on migration issues, said the head of the EU Council on Friday at the end of a two-day Brussels summit where he said the “difficult topic” of relations with Turkey was discussed.

Charles Michel told reporters that they picked up from decisions on Turkey made at an October summit and had to adopt some guidelines, referring to a joint statement released by EU leaders Friday criticizing Ankara’s energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, but stopped short of calling for severe economic sanctions on Turkey.

Asked about a statement where EU leaders also proposed “a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey,” he said: “What we are doing is to cooperate more with Turkey in order to tackle this difficult challenge of immigration.

“And, of course, it’s important for all the European members to have a responsible cooperation with Turkey.”

Turkey holds the status of country with the largest number of refugees in the world, including nearly 4 million Syrians fleeing war.

Reaching out to Turkey

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that they had hoped for “more constructive relations” with Turkey during their EU presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, when Portugal takes the helm.

“Unfortunately a number of developments have taken place in the southeastern Mediterranean, where unfortunately we have to say that we have to do more listings due to what we consider to be the illegal drillings” by Turkey, she said.

Turkey has argued that its energy exploration is lawful and that it only wants a fair sharing of the region’s resources based on dialogue, something that Greece has continually undermined.

“We’re still reaching out to Turkey, we want a constructive agenda with Turkey,” Merkel stressed, but added it has been “rather disappointing” as they intended to achieve more on relations with Turkey.

The EU leaders asked foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to prepare a report on Turkey by the next summit in March, Merkel announced, adding that they will discuss further relations in light of this report.

“We’ve asked for such a report to be made on all aspects of our relations with Turkey, with a view to the whole region, for example in Libya, in Nagorno-Karabakh,” she said.

Eastern Mediterranean tensions 

EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have long been at odds with Turkey over maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara has rejected the maritime boundary claims of these countries, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

The Turkish government has sent drill ships in recent months to explore for energy resources in the region, asserting Turkey’s rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiations.

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