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Top diplomat: Turkey aiming to turn new chapter with EU

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Turkey is working to turn new chapters in its relations with the EU, the country’s foreign minister said Friday, Anadolu Agency reported.

“In 2020, because of some of the problems that we experienced with some member countries, there have been occasional tensions in our relations with the EU, which is not a situation that we wish,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a press conference with his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya in the Spanish capital Madrid.

“But, with the approach of Spain and some other countries, rather than tension, dialogue has been opted for, and the most recent summit prepared the groundwork for this,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen will hold a video conference on Saturday, added Cavusoglu.

The top diplomat will also visit Brussels to hold talks with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Jan. 21.

READ: Turkey says talks with France to normalise ties going well

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EU imposes sanctions on Syrian foreign minister

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The European Union has imposed sanctions on Syria’s foreign minister following his recent appointment to the role. Faisal Mekdad was added to the EU sanctions and restrictions list applicable to the Syrian regime after a decision by the European Council on Friday. He is now subject to a travel ban and having his assets frozen.

The measures taken against the minister, who took over after his predecessor Walid Muallem’s death in November, brings the total number of persons targeted by EU sanctions to 289. The last instance of the bloc sanctioning the Syrian regime was in the same month, when eight newly-appointed ministers were listed.

Sanctions limit the operational capabilities and international reach of companies, businesses, individuals and other entities which are affiliated with the regime and its war crimes, such as the killing of civilians.

Despite such international measures, however, the Assad regime and its affiliates worldwide have long managed to circumvent them through involvement in international narcotics smuggling, the use of front companies overseas, offshore tax havens and a vast business network which all channel funds to Damascus.

Read: The US Caesar sanctions are a punishment not a solution for Syria

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EU welcomes decision to hold elections in Palestine

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A European Commission spokesman on Saturday hailed Palestine’s decision to hold general and presidential elections for the first time in 14 years, Anadolu Agency reported.

“Palestine welcomes decree-law on holding legislative, presidential and National Council elections. Elected and democratic institutions are key for self-determination & state building. EU is ready to support the electoral process,” Peter Stano said on Twitter.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s enacted a decree-law on holding legislative, presidential and National Council elections in the coming months starting with legislative elections on 22 May,” said Stano.

READ: PA welcomes Arab-EU ministerial meeting on Palestine

He said that it was a welcomed development as participative, representative and accountable democratic institutions are key for Palestinian self-determination and state-building.

“The EU has in the past years consistently supported and funded the work of the Central Elections Commission in order to prepare for holding free, fair and inclusive elections for all Palestinians.

“The EU stands ready to engage with relevant actors to support the electoral process. The EU also calls on Israeli authorities to facilitate the holding of elections across all the Palestinian territory,” he said.

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