ANTALYA, Turkey 

The European Union and Turkey can overcome their problems through open talks, but should keep their promises, and respect each other for a decent relationship, said the Maltese foreign minister on Saturday.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency prior to the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, Evarist Bartolo said: “When it comes to the European Union and Turkey, there should be real respect for each other, and not playing around, if we promise something, that we should deliver, but this should be also from both sides.”

He said the relations between the EU and Turkey “have been very complicated over the years,” and added: “I still think that strategically, it is in the interest of both the European Union and Turkey (for the country) to join the European Union.”

Underlining that despite some areas of conflict, there are also areas of cooperation between the EU and Turkey.

“And I must say that over the recent months, I have been quite optimistic and hopeful that relations have started to improve.”

He drew attention to the importance of the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean and said: “I will be in the panel about East Med. That is an area which I feel quite familiar with. As a small country, it’s very important for us to be friends with as many countries as possible.”

Bartolo, referring to the Eastern Mediterranean issue, also noted: “The best way to solve regional problems is to find mutual self-interest. And it is possible.”

“A lot of issues today can’t be solved by one country alone whoever the country is. So, whether we like it or not, we are condemned to working together,” he continued.

Mentioning “the need for a conference of the Eastern Mediterranean,” Bartolo said the countries in the region can discuss economic development, issues of security and energy as well as human rights and culture in this conference.

He said Turkey is involved in the Maltese economy to a great extent, with “Turkish companies have performed well good quality work and on time” in Malta’s two major ports and a number of big construction projects.

He also expressed his wish for further bilateral developments in the field of tourism.

Emphasizing the significance of dialogue, Bartolo added: “If we are to solve conflicts, enemies have to sit down to talk to each other; and then become partners.”

“The enemies of the past can become partners of the future.”

* Writing by Dilan Pamuk in Ankara.

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