Three of the European Union’s top officials -- EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides -- will seek more Turkish support in the struggle against the Islamic State group in the Middle East during a high-profile visit to Turkey Monday and Tuesday.
“The visit to Turkey … is a strong indication of the strategic importance of the EU-Turkey relationship and our desire to step up engagement in view of shared interests and common challenges,” Mogherini said in a statement. She and her associates will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other government ministers, among others.
The EU officials are looking for closer cooperation with Turkey in the fight against the Islamic State group and other militant organizations in the Middle East as part of an effort to cut their funding and halt the flow of foreign fighters, according to Reuters. The EU is seeking the country’s help in identifying those foreign fighters and in warning about any risks to aviation security, one EU source told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
Turkey has been an EU candidate country since 2005, but there have political roadblocks along the way, many of them centered on the divided island of Cyprus, as Reuters reported. It is interesting therefore that Hahn is a member of the EU delegation in Ankara this week.
“We are committed to moving forward EU-Turkey relations and keeping the accession negotiations on track,” Hahn said in a statement. “However, further reforms are needed to provide solid ground for progress. To achieve this, we need to have an even closer and deeper relationship with Turkey.”
Turkey already has done a great deal in terms of the humanitarian crisis associated with the Syrian Civil War in general and the actions of the Islamic State group formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS. At least 963,540 Syrian refugees have registered with the Turkish government, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In recognition of Turkey’s key role in this area, Mogherini and Stylianides will visit a refugee camp and pay tribute to the country for its sheltering of the camp’s inhabitants and their peers. “I reiterate Europe’s solidarity with Turkey, most notably the host communities who are generously hosting more than 1 million refugees from Syria and Iraq,” Stylianides said in a statement. “I am going there … to make sure that our humanitarian assistance continues to bring relief and hope in the most efficient way possible.”