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Iran Press TV

Turkey to scrap EU deal if visa waivers not forthcoming: FM

Iran Press TV

Mon Aug 1, 2016 5:9AM

Turkey says it will "back away" from a refugee deal it has struck with the European Union (EU) if the bloc does not grant Turkish nationals visa-free travel to Europe.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the refugee deal had worked due to "very serious measures" taken by Turkey, without specifying which measures.

He further said in the interview – which is to be fully published in the daily's Monday edition – that the success of the agreement now depends on the European side.

"All that is dependent on the cancellation of the visa requirement for our citizens, which is also an item in the agreement of March 18," Cavusoglu said.

The agreement, which the two sides signed in March, has been meant to stem the flow of irregular refugees into Europe. Under the deal, Turkey has committed to taking back all the asylum seekers and refugees who have used the Aegean Sea to illegally reach Greece. In return, Ankara has been promised financial aid, the acceleration of visa liberalization talks and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

The two sides have been negotiating a sub-deal under which Turkish nationals would be allowed visa-free travel to Europe. Efforts to reach that deal, however, have been hampered by Turkey's refusal to revise its anti-terrorism laws, which the EU says are too broad, as well as a Turkish government crackdown following a failed coup.

"If visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back (refugees) and the agreement of March 18," Cavusoglu said in his interview.

He also urged the EU to determine a precise date for granting visa waivers. "It could be the beginning or middle of October, but we are waiting for a firm date."

European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has recently ruled out granting visa-free travel for Turks this year because of Ankara's crackdown on coup suspects.

So far, over 60,000 people in the Turkish military, judiciary, civil services and schools have been detained, dismissed or suspended over suspected links with US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the botched coup.

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