Turkey's Erdogan: EU membership remains strategic goal

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey's intelligence chief would meet Iraqi officials to discuss an Iraqi military operation in Sinjar, a region of north Iraq that is home to the country's Yazidi minority.

"Our operations against terrorism do not just contribute to our and the Syrians' security, but to Europe's security as well", Erdogan said.

Speaking to reporters in the Black Sea resort of Varna on Monday (26 March), European Council president Donald Tusk said no solutions or compromises had been found between Ankara and the EU. "Only progress on these issues will allow us to improve EU-Turkey relations, including the accession process", he said.

The summit was held amid an array of issues that have strained ties, including a dispute between Turkey and European Union member Cyprus over energy exploration in the Mediterranean.

He was referring to a drillship that was prevented in February by Turkish warships ostensibly on sea maneuvers from proceeding to a drilling target between the southeastern shores of Cyprus and Lebanon.

Mr Tusk added: "While our relationship is going through hard times, in areas where we do cooperate, we cooperate well".

His crackdown on the opposition and undermining of Turkey's judiciary following the 2016 attempted coup has seen more than 50,000 arrests including many journalists, academics and opposition politicians, outlawed dozens of civil society groups, newspapers and television stations. But Erdogan added: "We are going to remind them (Tusk and Juncker) once more that Turkey will not tolerate hypocrisy".

Iraqi Prime Minister has urged military to boost members around the country's border with Turkey, as tensions with Ankara mount over the presence of Kurdish militias in the area. "As you know, it was a long list including the rule of law and press freedom in Turkey, and Turkey's bilateral relations with member states, also the situation in Syria", he said.

Juncker insisted that he was not in favour of stopping negotiations with Turkey but urged Ankara to improve relations with member states like Cyprus and Greece.

"After the liberation of Sinjar, the YPG forces here gradually gained more power and strength and were able to take over securing the mountain from the PKK and, when the Iraqi government forces came here previous year, PKK fighters withdrew because their presence was no longer necessary", he said.

Next month the European Union will release its latest progress report, which is "bound to illustrate a substantial regression" in Turkey, Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and a former European Union ambassador to Turkey, said in a study.