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Turkey's EU minister 'not hopeful' about visa-waiver deal

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir has called the political deadlock over Turkey's anti-terror law the "Achilles heel" of the EU migrant deal. He said the bloc must find a "new formula" to save the agreement.

Visa-free travel talks between the European Union and Turkey

have reached an impasse

over Turkey's anti-terror law, Ankara's EU minister, Volkan Bozkir, told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

"At this stage I would not say we are very hopeful," Bozkir said after talks with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The minister said leaders in Brussels did not respond positively to Turkey's request for new "political consultations" over five remaining criteria - including their anti-terror legislation - which Turkey has to fulfill in order to receive the visa waiver.

"It's essential that the European Commission find a new formula," he added.

Bozkir defended Turkey's anti-terror law, saying it was "no worse" than similar legislation in other countries and said it was not possible to make changes due to the current security situation and

a recent slew of bomb attacks.

"Every country has things on which it can give ground and things on which it can't. The European Commission should help Turkey," said Bozkir, labeling the law as an "Achilles heel."

"We think the European Commission should understand quite how critical the current situation is," he said.

EU-migrant deal at stake

Visa-free travel is a key component in the

historic March agreement

between the EU and Turkey in order to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc, but now the entire deal could be at risk.

Although EU leaders are pushing for the deal to continue, they also insist that Turkey meet 72 criteria, including reining in its broad anti-terror laws.

Brussels has taken aim at the legislation and wants Ankara to narrow its definition of "terror" to prevent the prosecution of journalists and academics for publishing "terror propaganda."

Although rights groups and the EU say the laws are too often used to suppress dissent, Turkey argues that the laws are necessary to fight militant groups such as the "Islamic State" and Kurdish insurgents.

German satirist Jan Böhmermann

also faces an investigation after allegedly insulting Erdogan on German TV, in a case that sparked a debate over the freedom of speech in Germany.

The talks in Brussels followed President Tayyip Erdogan's comments on Thursday where he lashed out at the EU and threatened that Turkey may go its own way if it failed to agree on the terms.

"They believe they have a right for themselves (to fight terror) but find it a luxury and unacceptable for us. Let me say it clearly - this is called hypocrisy," said Erdogan on Thursday.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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