Turkey is threatening to scrap a migrant deal reached this year with the European Union if the 28-member bloc does not provide visa exemptions for Turkish citizens by October.
"If a visa liberalization is not reached, we will be forced to distance ourselves from the migrant-return arrangement and the agreement from March 18," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in remarks to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published Monday.
The EU struck a wide-ranging agreement with Turkey in March aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the bloc. In return, the bloc agreed to pay for refugee projects in Turkey and offered the prospect of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens visiting the EU, among other benefits.
The visa requirement for Turkish citizens travelling to the EU was originally due to be lifted in July, but the move was stalled because Turkey has not yet fulfilled all 72 criteria for the lifting, among them a reform of a controversial Turkish law on terrorism.
The migration deal works because Turkey has embraced "very serious measures," including a crackdown on human traffickers, Cavusoglu told the paper.
"But all of that is dependent on the lifting of visa requirements for our citizens, which is an article of the March 18 agreement," the minister said.
Cavusoglu asserted that his comments were not meant as a threat.
In Brussels, the European Commission said it will not be influenced by Ankara's demands.
Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens will come into force when all necessary criteria hae been fulfilled, a spokeswoman for the EU's executive told dpa on Sunday.
"Turkey agreed to meet the provisions ... and we expect them to comply with these obligations," the spokeswoman said.
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