World Bulletin / News Desk
Carmelo Abela, Malta’s foreign affairs and trade promotion minister, praised the half-century of diplomatic relations between the two countries, touting Turkish-Maltese ties as "excellent".
In the capital Ankara to open the island nation’s new embassy, he added that there is an opportunity to "further develop" ties between Turkey and Malta.
On relations between Turkey and the European Union, which Malta is a member of, he said: "Turkey is an important partner for both us and Europe, and it also is a key actor within its region. Turkish-EU relations must be further developed."
He stressed the "significance" of the refugee deal between Turkey and the EU, saying: "We must thank Turkey for implementing the deal between Turkey and the EU. We must continue to work together on the matter."
On the illegal migrant flow from Africa to Europe via the Mediterranean, Abela said: "Turkey, like Malta, is doing its part in the refugee matter. We must accept that."
Ankara and the EU reached a deal in 2016 aimed at discouraging irregular migration to Europe through the Aegean Sea, including a €6 billion ($6.9 billion) aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 10 million displaced, according to the UN.
Abela also said U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will "not contribute to resolution of the matter," adding that Malta favors a two-state solution and Palestine and Israel returning to the negotiating table.
Jerusalem remains at the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- currently occupied by Israel -- will eventually become the capital of a Palestinian state.