Turkey to suspend EU refugee deal if new visa-free travel proposal declined

ANKARA, TURKEY - APRIL 18: Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik delivers a speech during a press conference at the ministry in Ankara, Turkey on April 18, 2017. (Photo by Binnur Ege Gurun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ankara will withdraw from a refugee deal with the European Union if Brussels refuses to consider a new visa-free travel proposal, which will be issued in May, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik said Saturday.

“If they accept our proposal, the process [concerning the refugee deal] will be completed in a positive way, if not, it will fail,” Celik told the CNN Turk broadcaster, adding that Turkey would be ready to unilaterally withdraw from the deal.

The details of the new proposal have not been specified.

In March 2016, Brussels and Ankara agreed on a deal, under which Turkey pledged to take back all undocumented migrants that had arrived in the European Union through the state’s territory. In return, the bloc pledged to accelerate the Turkish EU accession bid and introduce a visa-free regime, as well as provide financial aid to Turkey to cover the costs of migrant reception.

Since August 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly warned that Ankara will withdraw from the deal if the European Union fails to grant a visa waiver for Turkish citizens, especially after the relations with the bloc deteriorated against the background of a Turkish referendum on the expansion of presidential powers. Over 51 percent of Turkish people supported the constitutional amendments.