SOFIA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Monday in Varna to keep up bilateral dialogue.
"Today's EU-Turkey meeting reaffirms the importance both sides give to our relationship," Tusk said at a joint press conference after a working dinner, hosted by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as the leader of the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).
On migration and support for refugees, the EU and Turkey remained very close partners, Tusk said. "I would like to express our appreciation for the impressive work Turkey has been doing, and to sincerely thank Turkey and the Turkish people for hosting more than three million Syrian refugees these past years," he said.
The EU has lent substantial support to improve the livelihood of these refugees, and this evening the European Union's unwavering commitment to continue this support was reaffirmed, Tusk said.
COOPERATION ON FIGHTING TERRORISTS
Meanwhile, the two sides wanted to expand their cooperation with regard to foreign terrorist fighters, Tusk said.
"We also expressed our concern with Turkey's actions in Syria, in particular the situation in Afrin," Tusk said. "Escalating violence and displacement in an already tragic and volatile situation must be avoided, and we recalled Turkey's responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need," Tusk said.
"Our meeting today demonstrated that while our relationship is going through difficult times, in areas where we do cooperate, we cooperate well," Tusk said.
"We reconfirm our readiness to keep up the dialogue and consultations and to work together to overcome current difficulties with a view to unleashing the potential of our partnership," he said.
Erdogan said in turn he hoped the period of bad relations between Turkey and the EU has remained in the past.
"Today, we made the first step towards improving the dialogue, but we need to take concrete measures," he said.
EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS
During the meeting, the possibility of intensifying relations between Turkey and the EU has been discussed, Erdogan said.
Turkey's application for EU membership was filed in 1963, but Turkey was still only a candidate for membership, and therefore a step has to be taken to speed up the negotiation process, Erdogan said.
The fight against terrorism was another very important issue, and the anti-terrorist operations that Turkey has been conducting helped to secure the Turkish citizens, Erdogan said. That is why Turkey should not be criticized for conducting these operations, he said.
Juncker said that Turkey should be a true strategic partner of the EU, and the both sides should maintain sincere and honest dialogue.
He was the guarantor that Turkey's EU membership talks would continue, Juncker said.
However, Turkey needed to improve its relations with the EU member states, especially Cyprus and Greece, he said. "This is absolutely necessary for us to make progress," Juncker said.
"The EU and Turkey have to go hand in hand, and together to move forward," he said.
Borissov added that this channel of dialogue should continue to work.
"I think that maybe by the end of Bulgaria's EU presidency in June we will hold another meeting," Borissov said.