EU-Turkey ties looking better this year: German FM

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said that the ties between Turkey and the European Union are looking better this year after a difficult last year.

Duvar English - Reuters

Relations between Turkey and the European Union are looking better in 2021 after a difficult year last year, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on May 6.

Asked what more Germany could do for Turkey's bid to join the EU, Maas replied: "Turkey can contribute the most."

"We know ... that we are interested in these talks, and of course in goals and results. Last year, was a difficult year in the relationship between the EU and Turkey. This year looks to be a much better one," he said in a joint press conference in Berlin with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. 

On the issue of Libya, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey and Germany agree that all foreign mercenaries in the war-ravaged country should leave, but Ankara has a bilateral agreement with the Libyan government for its troops to be stationed there.

On May 5, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya would be an "important signal" as both leaders vowed to support the new interim government, a German government spokesman said.

Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya. It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.

"There are many foreign fighters and mercenaries present in Libya. We agree that they need to withdraw," Çavuşoğlu.

But "intervention" by third parties into bilateral accords covering military training and support would be wrong. "I think that foreign mercenaries and legitimate presence there should not be confused," he said, without specifying whether Syrian rebels would be pulled back.

In February, President Erdoğan said Turkey would consider withdrawing its forces in Libya if other foreign troops left first. Ankara has complained about the presence of Russian Wagner mercenaries in support of the eastern forces, which were also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France.