Merkel says hopes to take step forward in EU-Turkey talks ‘within hours’

Merkel says hopes to take step forward in EU-Turkey talks ‘within hours’

Merkel says hopes to take step forward in EU-Turkey talks ‘within hours’

A handout photo taken and released on March 6, 2016 by the Turkish prime minister's press office shows (LtoR) Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attending a meeting on the migrant crisis at Turkey's Permanent Delegation to the European Union, in Brussels, late March 6, 2016, ahead of a European Union leaders' summit with Turkey on March 7. AFP Photo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed hope that Turkey and the European Union will take a step forward on a joint action plan on illegal migrants, suggesting a consensus could be reached “within hours.”

“We want to decrease the number of illegal migrants, not just for some countries, but for all, including Greece,” Merkel said, stressing the crucial role of Turkey in reaching this end, according to Reuters.

“In terms of maritime boundaries, this can only be possible with [cooperation from] Turkey,” the chancellor added. 

Reiterating that the negotiations would be difficult, Merkel nevertheless expressed hope that the EU and Turkey could take a step forward “within a few hours.”

Merkel held a six-hour meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and EU Term President Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Brussels, ahead of a March 7 summit.

The tête-à-tête was held at Turkey’s Permanent Representation to the EU late on March 6 and was followed by a trilateral meeting of Turkish, German and Dutch delegations. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and EU Minister Volkan Bozkır accompanied the Turkish PM in the latter meeting. 

Reports indicate that the talks continued for approximately six hours, until 3 a.m. on March 7.

According to sources from the Turkish Prime Ministry, the joint action plan on illegal migrants, regional developments, and Turkey’s membership process to the EU were on top of the meetings’ agenda. 

Turkey and the EU are set to come together at a summit on March 7 in Brussels as part of ongoing efforts to implement a joint action plan on illegal migrants with both sides expected to voice expectations from each other. 

While European leaders will push Turkey to agree to “large-scale” deportations of economic migrants from Greece in order to reduce the huge of flow of migrants into the EU, the Turkish government will ask the EU to fulfill its commitments on visa liberalization and re-energize stalled accession talks outlined at an earlier summit held in November 2015.  

The summit will bring Davutoğlu together with leaders from 28 EU leaders, including Merkel, French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.