German Foreign Minister Steinmeier says Turkey must fulfill its obligations to receive a visa waiver for its citizens. His remarks come in response to threats from Ankara to drop a refugee deal with the EU.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday played down a threat from Ankara to torpedo a refugee deal with the European Union if a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens traveling to the EU is not introduced.
"There are conditions for a visa waiver, and all sides are aware of them," Steinmeier told the newspaper "Rheinische Post."
"Turkey has agreed to untertake the necessary steps to fulfill these conditions. However, it has not yet done so and Turkey still has work to do," he said, adding: "It won't help now to give each other ultimatums and utter threats."
Threat to pull out
His Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has called on the EU to implement the planned visa exemption for Turkish citizens by October at the latest or face the failure of a refugee deal signed with Ankara earlier in the year.
If the EU did not introduce visa-free travel, "we will be forced to go back on the [...] deal and agreements of 18 March," he said.
Under the deal, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants attempting to reach Europe from its shores who do not meet EU requirements for refugee status. In return, it is to receive, among other things, financial compensation and the visa waiver.
However, the EU Commission has so far not implemented the latter, because Ankara has not fulfilled all 72 requirements. These include a reform of its anti-terror laws, which are seen by the EU as violating international conventions on human rights.
The deal was struck as Europe struggles to cope with the largest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War.
Steinmeier stressed, however, that the EU should continue its accession talks with Turkey. "Severing relations is the worst imaginable method in politics," he said. But he added that the talks would be suspended if Turkey re-introduced the death penalty, saying that this "would not be compatible with European values."
Relations between Turkey and the EU have greatly deteriorated over the past weeks, with Brussels concerned at Ankara's draconian crackdown following a failed military coup. Some 19,000 alleged government critics have been arrested since the coup attempt some two weeks ago.
Ankara in its turn has voiced anger at a German ban on allowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to speak live via video link at a large pro-Erdogan demonstration in the western city of Cologne on Sunday.
Cologne police had voiced fears that such a presentation could lead to over-excitement and possible violence.
On Monday, the Turkish government summoned Germany's charge d'affaires in Ankara to protest at the move.
tj/kl (epd, dpa, AFP)