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30 Sep, 2020 13:08

Turkey wants visa liberalization and updates to migrant deal as EU summit looms

Turkey wants visa liberalization and updates to migrant deal as EU summit looms

Ankara expects EU leaders to make progress on a range of issues, including the 2016 migrant deal, which could help solve the migrant crisis in the region, at an upcoming summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

EU leaders will meet on October 1-2 in Brussels and Ankara expects concrete steps to be taken on updating a 2016 migrant deal and customs union with the bloc, as well as on visa liberalization, Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday.

The European Council and Ankara reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of migration to Europe via Turkey back in March 2016. Turkey, which hosts about 3.6 million refugees from Syria, agreed to stop them from going to Europe in exchange for €6 billion and visa-free travel in the EU for Turks. But Ankara has long accused EU leaders of failing to keep up their promises. In March this year, Turkey said it would no longer stop refugees heading to Europe.

Visa-free travel has long been a contentious issue among EU member states, with many politicians objecting to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s track record on human rights.

Ankara is also expecting to upgrade its customs union with the EU, but the process has been stalled over Turkey’s crackdown on opponents following an abortive 2016 military coup.

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Cavusoglu’s statements come amid ongoing tension with EU member Greece over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean. Ahead of the summit, Erdogan has appealed to the bloc to adopt an impartial line, local media reported, citing his letter sent to EU leaders, with exception for Greece and Greek Cyprus.

“Our expectation from the EU is to… maintain an equal distance from everyone, as well as to promote dialogue and cooperation,” he wrote. Ankara and Athens have been in a two-month-long standoff over the overlapping continental shelf claims in the eastern Mediterranean. They are expected to launch a new round of exploratory talks on the issue.

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