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Turkey will block EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel, says Erdogan

Ozan Kose / AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens to a speech during the closing ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit, on May 24, 2016 in Istanbul.
4 min

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the European Union that the Turkish parliament would block laws related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel.


The stark and unexpected warning from Erdogan came amid spiralling tensions between the Turkish strongman and the bloc over a string of issues ranging from existing accords and human rights as he seeks to further consolidate his powers.

"If that (the visa exemption) is not what will happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic," Erdogan said at the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

"Our foreign ministry, our EU affairs ministry will have discussions with the Europeans. If there is a result then great. If not, then I'm sorry."

There have been growing indications Turks will not be given the visa-free travel by the target of the end of June and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned after talks with Erdogan on Monday that the target was unlikely to be met.

The agreement -- which is already being implemented -- saw Turkey pledge to work to stop migrants cross the Aegean to Europe and also readmit migrants who crossed illegally.

EU officials have hailed the success of the deal, but Ankara has grown increasingly uneasy about the bloc's wariness to grant it the visa-free travel to the passport free Schengen area it was offered in return.


Erdogan also complained about the EU's wariness in handing over to Turkey a promise of 3 billion euros followed by another 3 billion to help Syrian refugees.

"Turkey is not asking for favours what we want is honesty," Erdogan said, speaking alongside UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the closing news conference.

"Turkey is supposed to fulfil criteria? What criteria are these I ask you?" he asked in an angry tirade that overshadowed the end of the summit.

Erdogan had emphasised during the summit how Turkey's hosting of some 3 million refugees from Syria and Iraq was an example to the world and said he hoped the event would lead to a "rekindling" of the world's collective conscience.

But he added: "If it goes into history books as one of the countless meetings where nothing comes out.. I will be very upset."

But Ban said he was a "bit disappointed" many world leaders, with the exception of Merkel, had stayed away from the Turkish metropolis and said their absence was "no excuse" for not taking action.

Erdogan meanwhile also floated once again his idea to build a city in Syria "from scratch" that could house some of the Syrian refugees in Turkey and be part of a safe zone.

He said that he had raised the idea in his talks with Merkel.

'Why these conditions?

EU leaders are insisting that Turkey abides by 72 conditions before the visa exemption takes place, with a demand to change counter-terror laws proving particularly contentious.

The EU wants Ankara to narrow its definition of terror to stop prosecuting academics and journalists for publishing "terror propaganda".

Turkey has refused to do so, pointing out it is in the midst of a campaign against Kurdish militants.

Erdogan complained Latin American countries were not asked such strict conditions as Turkey to be given visa-free travel.

"Turkey on the other hand is a candidate countries so why are you asking for these conditions, all these question marks?" he said.

EU capitals have also been unsettled by the sudden resignation this month of prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was widely seen in Brussels as a more amenable figure than the combative Erdogan.

Germany and other EU states have also sounded alarm over issues including a law to strip MPs of immunity and Erdogan's drive for a presidential system in the country.

Incoming Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday announced his new cabinet with the ruling party spokesman Omer Celik, an Erdogan loyalist, taking over the EU Affairs Ministry from Volkan Bozkir who had helped Davutoglu to negotiate the deal.


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