TEHRAN (Iran News) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says a 2016 refugees deal between Turkey and the European Union (EU) needs to be updated, following unsuccessful meetings between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European officials in Brussels.
Tens of thousands of refugees have been trying to cross into Europe via Turkey since Ankara late last month decided to loosen controls on refugees seeking to reach Europe via its territory, violating the 2016 deal with the EU. That has caused tensions on Turkey’s border with Greece, where Greek forces have been clashing with the refugees to block them.
Cavusoglu said in an interview with state-run Anadolu news agency that the EU had to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens within the 28-nation bloc’s Schengen area and that an update of the country’s customs union with the bloc must be implemented to help solve the refugee issue.
His remarks came after Erdogan left meetings with EU and NATO leaders in Brussels late on Monday without issuing a joint statement or appearing at a joint press conference, as had been planned.
Erdogan made the trip to Brussels amid heightened tensions between Ankara and the EU over Turkey’s decision regarding its border controls last month, which sparked fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, when over one million refugees arrived in the EU, most of them fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa, via Turkish territory.
Greece — which shares a border with Turkey — and the EU have accused Ankara of deliberately encouraging the refugees to cross the border as a way of pressuring European leaders into offering more financial assistance or backing Turkey’s campaign in Syria.
In March 2016, Turkey and the EU sealed a deal intended to stem the flow of refugees from Syria and other troubled countries to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara, including visa liberalization. Ankara, however, failed to meet the 72 conditions demanded by the EU for the visa exemption to be approved.
- source : PressTV, Iran News