ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and the European Union signed an agreement on Monday allowing EU governments to send back illegal immigrants crossing into Europe from Turkey in a move highlighting a thaw in relations between Ankara and the 28-member bloc.
At a ceremony in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom also signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe.
Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.
Talks on the "readmission agreement" to send back illegal immigrants had been stalled for years, largely due to Turkish distrust over the EU's willingness to ease visa rules.
Turkey began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France, have slowed progress.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Patrick Graham)