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Erdoğan gives ultimatum to EU for visa exemption in migrant deal

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that if the talks fail to result in a visa exemption for the Turkish citizens in European Union (EU) countries as it was originally planned as part of the migrant deal betwen Turkey and EU, the Turkish parliament will not pass the migrant deal.

Delivering a closing speech at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday, Erdoğan referred to the planned visa-free EU access for Turks, saying “If a result comes out of the talks, that is fine. If not, no offense but the parliament of the Turkish Republic will not pass a decision that paves the way for steps toward the migrant return agreement. They should not impose criteria to us over and over. This is Turkey.”

During a joint press conference with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Erdoğan was asked a question regarding Euro 3 billion of refugee aid which was promised to Turkey by the EU and the anticipated visa exemption. In response, the Turkish president said “We expect honesty. Turkey will meet the criteria. What are those criteria? If you are still setting criteria for Turkey, no offense, this can only be tolerated to a certain point. After that point, Turkey will reach its final decision.”

Erdoğan elaborated that the EU is expected to make a move concerning Turkish citizens’ visa exemption by June 30. He added that Turkish officials are set to hold talks with EU bodies on the issue, however, Erdoğan noted, if visa exemption is not agreed during the negotiations, the Parliament will block the migrant agreement with the EU.

In his speech, Erdoğan also touched on the humanitarian crises and specifically commented on the Syrian civil war. Stating that the Syrian crisis has been ongoing over the past 6 years, Erdoğan said the world, excluding a few neighboring countries, failed in addressing the tragedy that displaced 12 million people and caused 5 million people to become migrants.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who started his speech by saying “Welcome all” in Turkish, called on governments, private sector and nongovernmental organizations to cooperate with the UN to help solve humanitarian crises. Ban Ki-Moon also complained that some world leaders, especially those from G-7 countries, failed to attend the summit in Istanbul and led to disappointment.

Swedish daily Blick regarded Erdoğan’s statement on visa exemption as a threat to Europe in its leading story on Wednesday. In the report, it was commented “The disagreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey is growing. Erdoğan threatens the European Union to cancel the deal in the event that Turks are denied visa-free access to EU.

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