Turkey and the European Union (EU) held a high-level diplomatic meeting on Thursday, signaling the resumption of the bilateral dialogue, while revealing the obstacles in Turkey's accession to the bloc.
"We salute the decision that the Turkish government took to work to intensify relations with the union," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and EU Neighborhood Policy Minister Johannes Hahn, following the High Level Political Dialogue meeting held in Ankara.
The EU looks forward to making more joint efforts with Turkey in important areas, including energy, human trafficking and economy, the top EU diplomat said.
She noted that the EU wants a strong Turkey that is "stable, prosperous and democratic - a neighbor to work with hand-in-hand in a region of strategic importance for both of us and in a very complex geopolitical context."
But Mogherini expressed EU's "strong concerns" about the detention of several prominent academics and civil society representatives in Turkey.
She called on Ankara to abide by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights this week for the release of Turkey's former pro-Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtas. "We hope he will be released shortly and that similar cases will be dealt with soon," she said.
However, Cavusoglu dismissed Mogherini's criticism of the detention of academicians, saying that it is "meaningless for the EU to defend people who carried out actions to topple the elected government in Turkey simply because they are civil society members."
Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey expects full EU membership, but adding that it faces "political obstacles" created by the bloc.
He warned that the EU must fully meet its obligations for a refugee deal signed in 2016, which aimed to stop the migration in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, revival of its long-stalled accession talks and financial aid for refugees in Turkey.
He also mentioned that Ankara has stepped up political reforms and resumed meetings of its reform action group.
"Reform has always been a priority in Turkey. We were subjected to a coup attempt and notably since Gezi Park protests, there had been immense amount of attempts to overthrow the elected government. We are carrying on our work to normalize Turkey after the elections," he said.
Cavusoglu added that Turkey expects concrete support from the EU member states in its counter-terrorism efforts.
Turkey's accession talks with the EU, which began in 2005, have long been stalled. Ankara and EU member states mainly focus on other cooperation areas such as fight against terror and economy.
The Turkey-EU ties have faced ups and downs in the past couple of years, as the EU has increasingly criticized the Turkish government for drifting away from democracy and European values.
The ties took a hard blow in November 2016, when the European Parliament suspended Turkish accession talks, following a constitutional referendum expanding powers of the president in April 2017.
This year, Turkey has stepped up its efforts to resume its ties with the bloc, which have deteriorated since Turkey's failed coup in July 2016, following which the government imposed a state of emergency.
Ankara lifted the state of emergency after almost two years and sought to repair its ties with the EU, its top trading partner, especially at a time when the Turkish economy is struggling in face of U.S. sanctions.