Middle East

Give us EU visa freedom in October or abandon migrant deal, Turkey says

The European Union should grant Turks visa-free travel in October or the migrant deal that involves Turkey stemming the flow of illegal migrants to the bloc should be put aside, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a German newspaper.

Asked whether hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey would head to Europe if the EU did not grant Turks visa freedom from October, he told Bild newspaper's Monday edition: "I don't want to talk about the worst case scenario talks with the EU are continuing but it's clear that we either apply all treaties at the same time or we put them all aside."

Visa-free access to the EU the main reward for Ankara's collaboration in choking off an influx of migrants into Europe has been subject to delays due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and Ankara's crackdown after a failed coup.

Before conceding visa liberalisation, Brussels wants Turkey to soften the anti-terrorism law. European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has said he does not see the EU granting Turks visa-free travel this year due to Ankara's crackdown after the failed military coup.

Cavusoglu said treaties laid out that all Turks would get visa freedom in October, adding: "It can't be that we implement everything that is good for the EU but that Turkey gets nothing in return."

A spokesman for the European Commission was not immediately available to comment on Cavusoglu's comments.

Last week Selim Yenel, Turkey's ambassador to the EU, said efforts were continuing to find a compromise with the EU on visa liberalisation and he thought it would be possible to handle this in 2016. He rejected the idea that visa-free travel may be pushed back further beyond October, after missing an initial June deadline.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said he would approve the restoration of the death penalty if parliament voted for it, a move which would sink any hopes of European Union membership.

In the Bild interview Cavusoglu said Europe was acting as if Turkey had already introduced the death penalty. He said he was against introducing it but there was a lot of emotion among the Turkish people at the moment and that could not be ignored.

Asked if Turkey would leave NATO, Cavusoglu said anti-Turkish groups were talking about this but Turkey was one of the biggest supporters of the 28-nation Western defence alliance.

"But it's clear that we also need to cooperate with other partners on buying and selling weapon systems because some NATO partners refuse to allow us to sell air defence systems for example or to exchange information," he said.

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