Thursday 29 September 2016

Turkey won't go ahead with EU refugee plan unless visa requirements are lifted for Turkish citizens

Dominique Soguel, Associated Press

Published 24/05/2016 | 22:49

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands following the closing news conference during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands following the closing news conference during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Turkey has warned it will not move forward on implementing a refugee readmission agreement with the European Union (EU) unless visa requirements are lifted for Turkish citizens without further conditions.

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The EU has offered Turkey a visa waiver as an incentive - along with up to six billion euro (£4.5 billion) for Syrian refugees and fast-tracked EU membership talks - to get it to stop migrants leaving for Europe and taking back those who reach Europe illegally from Turkey.

As part of the agreement, the EU planned to accelerate the introduction of visa-free entry for Turks with a target date of June 30.

But for Turkey to enjoy visa-free travel for its citizens, it must meet five conditions, out of an initial 72, including narrowing the definition of terrorism. The bloc is concerned that the existing legislation is being used to silence dissent.

"If you're still imposing criteria on Turkey which provides important support to the European Union by preventing those living in camps and pre-fabricated homes who are waiting to go to Europe (from getting there), then I'm sorry," Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Mr Erdogan added that if further bilateral talks on the visa issue did not yield results, "the readmission agreement" on refugees would not be approved by Turkey.

The Turkish president has been pushing for a broader definition of terrorism at a time when security forces are engaged in renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the south-east.

Mr Erdogan's remarks come a day after holding bilateral talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted Ankara must fulfil all the conditions.

He also said the funds promised as part of the EU-Turkey deal on migrants had not been forthcoming.

"When we look at what has been done so far, unfortunately, we see that this (financial) support is not progressing as promised," Mr Erdogan said.

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