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Turkey, Italy talk economic ties in videoconference

The latest sign of friendship between Turkey and Italy comes amid otherwise tense Turkey-Europe relations, largely due to Turkey's plan to drill in Greek and Cypriot waters.
Leader of the Italy's populist Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, gives a speech on March 1, 2018, in Rome, as he present his would-be cabinet team ahead of elections on March 4. 
The 5-Star Movement has named its team of ministers if it is asked to form a government after March 4 general election, an unusual move aimed at stealing a march on its rivals and showing voters it is ready for power. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey and Italy want to continue economic cooperation with each other, officials from both countries said today.

Turkish Minister of Trade Ruhsar Pekcan spoke with Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio via videoconference on Thursday. The two discussed trade, imports of EU steel and the EU-Turkey Customs Union, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the two discussed trade by air, sea and land.

Turkey and Italy are both members of the G-20 and important economies in the Mediterranean region. Italy is Turkey’s fourth largest export market, according to Anadolu Agency.

The conference is the latest sign of friendliness between Turkey and Italy at an otherwise low point in Turkey-Europe relations. In June, the Turkish and Italian navies participated in a joint drill in the Mediterranean. Also in June, Italy met with leaders of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and described the north African nation as a “priority” for Rome. Turkey is the main international backer of the GNA. In May, both the Turkish and Italian embassies were shelled in GNA-controlled Tripoli during an offensive by Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s Libyan National Army.

Other European states have had public disagreements with Turkey lately. The European Union opposes Turkey’s plans to drill for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, considering the area in question to be Greek and Cypriot maritime territory. Germany most recently condemned Turkey’s exploration there this month. Turkey said it would stop drilling plans near a Greek island this week and called for talks with Athens, but also said shortly thereafter that it would conduct research inside Cyprus’ economic zone.

Tensions are particularly high between Turkey and Italy’s neighbor France. The French military withdrew from a NATO Mediterranean mission earlier this month following the alleged harassing of one of its ships by the Turkish navy.

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