(L-R) Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker.jpg
(L-R) Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker
Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

The European Union's top diplomats met Saturday with Turkish Europe Minister Omer Celik in an effort to reset the strained relationship between the two sides, following weeks of tit-for-tat in the aftermath of Turkey's thwarted July 15 coup.

The European Union was quick to condemn the attempted military takeover, but has voiced strong concern about a subsequent crackdown and purge across the military and civil service that has led to thousands of detentions.

Relations were already damaged by a row about visa-free access for Turkish visitors to the bloc. Turkey is a long-standing EU membership candidate and plays a key role in stemming migration flows into Europe.

"Direct dialogue is important and that's what we are re-establishing this morning," said Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, who was hosting the Bratislava talks as his country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"There were many mutual accusations made over the media, which never helps," he added. An initial meeting with Celik over dinner on Friday had been "very friendly," Lajcak said, while adding that they would not shy away from difficult topics.

"Of course we expect to hear answers to the questions and concerns that EU representatives have raised with regard to the processes that are well-known in Turkey," he said.

There are "many reasons" to talk to Turkey, added Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, pointing also to Turkey's role as a NATO ally and its large military force.

Ankara has played a significant role in regional issues such as the war in neighbouring Syria, recently launching a cross-border ground offensive for the first time. The ministers would discuss Syria if they have time, Lajcak said.

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