Ankara expects a better relationship with the European Union under Malta's presidency of the bloc, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday.
Speaking at a joint news conference in the Maltese capital Valetta, Yildirim said the Mediterranean island nation had always supported Turkey's EU membership bid without preconditions.
Yildirim was on an official visit where he met his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat.
The pair discussed bilateral relations, the future of Turkey-EU relations plus the agreement to renew a Turkey-EU customs deal, Yildirim said.
Yildirim also said he hoped new chapters on Turkey's EU membership accession would be opened under Malta's presidency, which expires in June this year.
- Cyprus talks
Regarding settlement talks in Cyprus, the Turkish prime minister reiterated Ankara's unanimous support for a peace deal on the island.
He said the Turkish Cypriot community had been "paying the price" for a failure to reach a settlement.
The eastern Mediterranean island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup was followed by the intervention of Turkey as a guarantor power.
Cypriot issues remain unsolved despite a series of discussions which resumed in May 2015.
Recent peace talks in Geneva brokered by the United Nations came to a sudden halt on Thursday after an apparent walkout by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.
- Press freedom
Yildirim also dismissed European criticisms of the state of press freedom in Turkey.
"Freedom of speech and the press are universal rights… But we have to distinguish two aspects:
"On one hand, freedom of speech and freedom of the media and on the other hand the abuse of freedom of the media in order to engage in terrorist activities," Yildirim said.
The Turkish premier said Ankara had been fighting against "so-called journalism" and reporters who used their identity to support terrorism.
"We are fighting against those who claimed to be journalists but provide logistical support to terrorists or who use their press cards to help terrorists.
"So the facts are being misrepresented regarding the issue in Turkey," Yildirim said.
He called on Europe to open new accession chapters on the media and the press in order to discuss the issue comprehensively.
"I want to say to those who criticize Turkey in these regards: 'Let's open new EU chapters on it, then discuss.'
"So here is my official call to EU officials: If freedom of speech and the rule of law is so important for Europe, let's open negotiations on chapters 23 and 24 on the media, the press and justice.
"So that way we can respond to what the EU actually wants to know... We are ready to discuss everything," he added.
- Bilateral agreements
During his official visit, Turkey and Malta signed two agreements on healthcare plus the family and social affairs sector.
They also discussed bilateral cooperation in maritime affairs and some other sectors, including the teaching of foreign languages.
On regional issues, they also discussed the refugee problem, a solution in Syria and how to overcome the instability in Libya, Yildirim said.
The Turkish prime minister said the EU should develop a new approach to Turkey and take faster steps to implement refugee agreements and visa-free travel for Turks to go to Europe.
He hoped cooperation between Turkey and other EU states in the fight against terrorism would be developed under Malta's EU presidency. -