Erdogan warns of scrapping EU refugee deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will scrap a refugee deal with the EU unless his country’s key demand of visa-free travel is granted.

“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,” said Erdogan at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Erdogan’s warning comes amid rising tensions between Turkey and the EU over a series of issues including the country’s anti-terror laws and its human rights track record.

“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,” he added.

Based on the deal, struck with the EU in March to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, refugees arriving on European soil via the Aegean Sea may be sent back to Turkey. For each refugee returned, the EU will take one Syrian refugee currently living in Turkey.

In return, the EU has made several commitments to Ankara, including financial aid, visa-free travel for Turks, and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Over the last few weeks there have been growing indications that Turkey’s key demand will not be granted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) on May 23, 2016 during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. (AFP)

During talks held on the sidelines of the Istanbul summit on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had told Erdogan that the deal would not go through if “the terrorism legislation is not changed in the coming weeks”.

Turkey formerly set the end of June as a deadline for the 28-member bloc to scrap visas for Turkish citizens, but sources in the EU said it is nearly impossible to meet the deadline.

The silhouettes of Kurdish refugees who managed to leave the VIAL detention center on the island of Chios are seen as they protest against deportations to Turkey at the island’s port where they are camping out on April 5, 2016. (AFP)

Visa-free travel for Turkish nationals is a contested issue as some EU states fear it would open doors to more migration to the bloc, which is already struggling with an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.

By Press TV