EU chief, Turkey discuss foreign fighters in Syria

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2014 10:27 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The European Union's new foreign affairs chief on Monday called for "good coordination and strategy" with Turkey to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq.

Federica Mogherini is paying her first visit to Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, at a time when the country is under pressure to get more engaged in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State extremist group and to prevent foreign jihadis from crossing its borders to join the group.

The crisis in Syria and Iraq has also sent around 1.6 million refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey.

Mogherini told reporters after talks with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other officials, that technical discussions on how to share information on the fighters and coordinate policies were continuing, and expressed hope that they would yield "positive results" in the coming weeks or days.

She also announced that the EU was "finalizing" a 70 million-euro (about $85 million) new aid package for Turkey to help with the refugee flow. Mogherini, who is accompanied by the EU commissioners for humanitarian affairs and enlargement, is scheduled to visit refugees near the border with Syria on Tuesday.

Turkey's talks on joining the EU began in 2005, but have long been effectively stalled, mainly because of Turkey's dispute with EU member Cyprus and skepticism in some European nations about admitting such a populous, largely Muslim country.

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Johannes Hahn, the commissioner for enlargement, said he was hopeful that entry talks with Turkey on a new policy area, or chapter, could start during Latvia's EU presidency, which begins next month. Negotiations on several chapters have been frozen over Turkey's refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace.

"Things are moving in the right direction," Hahn told reporters.