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'Improving Turkish-EU cooperation benefits both'

Improving cooperation between Turkey and the EU in strategic areas such as foreign policy and security serves the interests of both sides, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Friday.

The six-month Romanian presidency of the European Union “provides a particular angle to our understanding, our contact and our relations with a country like Turkey that is at the same time a candidate country and a partner for the European Union in a region that is a priority for us,” Federica Mogherini said about Romania’s EU Council term presidency and its effect on ties with Turkey.

Mogherini’s remarks came at a joint news conference with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu following Gymnich, a two-day informal meeting of EU member states' and candidate countries' foreign ministers in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is representing Ankara at the meeting.

On the Syria crisis, Mogherini said they agreed to discuss the issue in Brussels during the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting set for mid-February.

She added that a third Brussels conference for the future of Syrians and the region will be held on March 12-14, focusing not only on humanitarian aid but also finding a political solution.


US withdrawal from INF Treaty

On the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, announced Friday, Mogherini said the bloc learned about the issue from NATO.

She said the treaty had made a major contribution to European security, and added: “European countries and the EU are not parties to the INF, but Europe has been probably the one that has benefitted the most.”

She added: “The European Union would want to see full compliance and preservation of the INF treaty.”

Such pacts are essential for global security, she said, adding: “What we definitely don’t want to see is our continent going back to being a battlefield.”

The treaty, signed in 1987 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was largely designed to stave off the prospects of nuclear war in Europe.

The U.S. announced Friday that it will begin a six-month withdrawal process from the treaty on Feb. 2, accusing Russia of violating the pact by developing SSC-8 land-based cruise missiles.


Venezuela sanctions

On the EU imposing sanctions on some Venezuelans over alleged human rights violations and undermining democracy and the rule of law in the wake of last May’s elections, Mogherini said: “These sanctions have already been extended a couple of weeks ago by unanimity by the member states for one year.”

More targets could be added to the sanctions, she said, which include travel bans and the freezing of assets.

The South American country has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions rose when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president on Jan. 23.

Among those recognizing Guaido’s claim are the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and the Organization of American States.

Bolivia and Mexico continued to recognize Maduro.

Russia, China and Iran also support Maduro, as does Turkey.

European heavyweights Britain, Germany, France and Spain have called on Maduro to announce fresh elections to ease the crisis.