Turkish FM sets visa liberalization deadline for EU

Foto: Sputniknews

ATHENS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) — Turkey will not continue the implementation of the agreement struck with European Union in March to stem the refugee flow if Europe fails to grant visa free travel to Turkish nationals by October this year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned.

The Turkish official made the remarks during an interview on the sidelines of his unofficial one day visit on Sunday to Crete island, where he held talks with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias. The interview was printed on Greek newspaper “Kathimerini” (Daily) on Tuesday.

Under March’s agreement, Ankara has stepped up efforts to crack down on the smuggling rings which have been sending thousands of refugees and migrants from Turkey’s shores to the Greek islands on boats.

The results were impressive. Only a few dozen people per day have been landing on the Greek shores over the next three months, instead of the thousands who were reaching Greece on a daily basis in particular since the summer of 2015.

Since January 2015 more than a million people have crossed the Aegean Sea on their journey to Europe, while some 3,500 have perished in the waters across the Mediterranean.
In exchange for Ankara’s cooperation, among other terms, the visa requirement for travel to Europe for Turkish citizens would be abolished within months.
“We did our share in this cooperation… We do not see the EU keen on delivering its promises…We expect visa liberalization for Turkish citizens at the latest in October 2016,” Cavusoglu said.

In June, the EU did not grant Turkey the visa- free travel for its nationals, arguing that Ankara has not met all preconditions set. Following the July 15 failed coup attempt, refugee arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkish shores are on the rise, according to official data from the Greek Coast Guard. About 450 new arrivals were recorded on Monday and Tuesday.

More than 11,000 people are currently stranded on the Aegean Sea islands awaiting the assessment of their asylum bids, their relocation in the mainland or deportation to Turkey.

After the closure of the Balkan route to central Europe in February in Greece’s northern borders, approximately 58,000 people have been stranded in Greece in overcrowded reception camps.

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