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By Helen Maguire, dpa (TNS)

BRUSSELS — The European Union agreed Sunday to give Turkey $3.2 billion in refugee aid and promised to boost relations with the long-standing membership candidate, in return for efforts to curb migration flows.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu proclaimed a “new beginning” for EU-Turkey relations, which have been strained by clashes over territorial issues, democracy and fundamental rights. But the deal struck Sunday comes with many conditions attached.

The EU turned to Turkey for help after experiencing its largest population movements since World War II. More than 900,000 people reached the continent this year.

Many travel through Turkey, including people fleeing war-torn Syria. The EU now wants Turkey to hold back those flows, by offering people better lives in Turkey, improving its border controls and cracking down on migrant traffickers, among other things.

“We expect a major step towards changing the rules of the game when it comes to stemming the migration flow,” said EU President Donald Tusk. Turkey and the EU had agreed a “clear plan for the timely re-establishment of order at our shared frontier,” he said.

The two sides displayed a united front on Sunday, but mistrust remains.

The promised funding will only be disbursed “bit by bit” as Turkey meets its commitments under the plan, said French President Francois Hollande.

“Turkey has to meet commitments and visibly reduce the (migration) influx. We will be checking and monitoring this,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“I can guarantee that Turkey … will be fulfilling all the promises mentioned in (the) joint action plan,” Davutoglu said.

However, he could not promise that the plan would reduce the migrant flows to Europe. That depends on resolving the conflict in Syria, he said.

In return for Turkey’s efforts, the 28 EU leaders promised progress in Ankara’s talks over joining the EU. The EU also agreed to holding summits with Turkey twice a year.

©2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) is welcomed by European Council President Donald Tusk at the start of an EU-Turkey summit, in which the EU seeks Turkish help to slow the influx of migrants into southeastern Europe, in Brussels, Belgium November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Thierry Monasse/Pool

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