World Bulletin / News Desk
The refugee deal reached this March could collapse if the European Union fails to provide Turkey with the promised visa liberalization by year’s-end, Turkey's EU minister warned Wednesday.
The deadline is not an agreed-on date, but it would come "naturally," Omer Celik told a joint press conference in the capital Ankara with Alan Duncan, Britain’s minister of state for Europe and the Americas.
Celik said that the EU has so far failed to keep its promises to Turkey and that things have been moving too slowly.
Under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement of this March, Turkey is to readmit all irregular migrants who reach Greek islands from the country.
But visa liberalization in Schengen zone countries was one of the EU’s key promises under the deal, meant to enhance EU-Turkey cooperation in addressing the refugee crisis and accelerate Turkey’s membership talks.
Turkey has so far met most of the requirements for visa liberalization, but the EU’s demands for change in Ankara’s anti-terrorism laws led to a deadlock in negotiations.
The foiled July 15 coup attempt in Turkey and Ankara’s declaration of a three-month state of emergency led to further uncertainty about future talks on visa liberalization. Ankara insists that due to the serious terrorism threat, it will not make any changes.
"The Fetullah Terrorist Organization [FETO] has carried out attacks in Turkey, the PKK has done so, and Daesh too,” Celik said. “Under these circumstances, asking Turkey to change its anti-terrorism law is putting the security of the country at risk as well as that of Europe”.
Celik cited the July 15 deadly coup attempt, which Turkey blames on FETO, led by Fetullah Gulen.
Celik said he appreciated Duncan's visit of July 20 -- soon after the coup attempt -- and his support for the Turkish people and democracy "when many of our European friends kept silent".
Duncan also reiterated that his current visit is meant to show Britain’s solidarity with the people of Turkey and its democratic institutions.
He added that Britain supports Turkey's fight against all types of terrorism and that they are pleased with bilateral cooperation against Daesh.
He also said the two countries are enjoying a period of improving bilateral relations.
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