High Representative Josep Borrell on Monday described the exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, which started today, as an important step towards EU-Turkey rapprochement.

Speaking after the end of the Council of Foreign Ministers, High Representative Josep Borrell stressed that the UNCLOS Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the appropriate basis for the talks, noting “we are talking about compliance with international law after all” and “this is part of international law”.

The High Representative also stressed that the UN-led talks on resolving the Cyprus issue should begin immediately and noted the EU’s intention to attend the negotiations as an observer, as it has done in the past.

He said that he would continue to prepare the report assigned to him by the European Council with its December conclusions, including options on sanctions, noting that the EU would continue to monitor developments in Turkey in the coming weeks with a view to the EU Council of March.

Furthermore, HRVP Borrell informed the 27 about Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit and stated that the situation was discussed in the Council within the framework of the December mandate.

“We look at everything from a political perspective,” Borrell noted.

The HRVP further explained that the relevant list of sanctions is not ready yet, but “it has not been put aside” and “the work continues”.

He stressed that in relation to Cavusoglu’s visit, “the message was mutual”, “neither I only listened, nor only he listened”. He said that “we examined everything that created problems” and noted that they agreed to overcome the difficulties with the aim of “better neighbourhood and understanding”.

He also noted that “the irritancies that poisoned” relations with the Member States have been removed. “We do not have ships, we do not have drillings”, he said, adding that we must maintain the momentum and use it to find solutions.

He also noted that the exploratory talks with Greece have started and discussions on the Cyprus issue are expected in mid-February. He repeated that “we must maintain the momentum”, noting that everything was difficult in 2020, Cyprus, the delimitation of maritime zones.

German Foreign Minister Haiko Maas also praised the start of the exploratory talks.