UPDATE Erdogan: No EU readmission deal without visa freedom

UPDATE Erdogan: No EU readmission deal without visa freedom

EU-Turkey refugee deal could collapse unless the bloc allows Turks visa freedom, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan


ISTANBUL (AA) - Turkey’s president said Tuesday there would be no readmission agreement with the European Union unless talks on visa freedom for Turks are "fruitful".

Speaking at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "If these [talks] are fruitful, it’s good, [but] if not, then what will happen is that a step will have to be taken at the Turkish parliament and the law regarding the readmission agreement will not be carried out."

A readmission process between the EU and Turkey, entered into in October 2014, makes it possible to return undocumented migrants who enter Europe via Turkey and vice versa.

Full implementation of the readmission agreement is also required in order to implement a visa-liberation process for Turkey.

Talks over visa freedom for nearly 80 million Turks soured when the EU requested that Turkey complete the five remaining benchmarks, out of an initial 72, including one on terrorism.

Turkey, which is currently fighting terrorist groups such as Daesh and the PKK, has refused to alter its terrorism laws. "[The EU] should not keep trying to impose criteria on us. This is Turkey," Erdogan said, adding that certain Latin American countries, whose citizens are exempt from visa requirements to travel to the Schengen borderless zone, did not have to fulfill the same criteria as Turkey.

Erdogan asked why Turkey, which is an EU candidate country and part of the bloc’s customs union, would have to fulfill 72 requirements.

Visa freedom is also part of an EU-Turkey deal which provides a 6 billion euro ($6.8 billion) aid package to meet the needs of millions of refugees in Turkey and speeding up the country’s accession talks.

But Erdogan reiterated that Turkey, which has already spent billions of dollars on Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis, does not need the EU’s money.

"At the end of the day [the aid] doesn’t come to Turkey, it is provided to refugees in camps mostly to improve their living conditions --Turkey is not asking for favors," Erdogan said.

"What we want is honesty, Turkey is supposed to fulfill criteria, what criteria are these, what [do] you mean by criteria?" he said.

The deal was agreed on late last year, when more than a million refugees reached the EU and more than 800 drowned in the Aegean Sea as human traffickers crammed them on unseaworthy vessels heading for the Greek islands off Turkey’s coast.

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