Ties between Turkey and the European Union could be revived if the bloc implemented the terms of a deal aimed at limiting the flow of migrants, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Monday.
Turkey has received only 790 million euros ($857 million) of a 3 billion euro package promised by the European Union under a deal to limit the flow of migrants from Turkey into the bloc, he told a news conference.
Relations between Ankara and Brussels have been strained by disputes during this month’s referendum campaign on presidential powers.
On Saturday, Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik declared that his country could abandon the migrant deal if the EU did not allow Turks visa-free travel in the continent.
Ankara will present a new document in May on its visa-free deal with the EU which if not accepted would put the refugee deal with the bloc at a standstill, he said.
In an interview with private news channel CNN Turk, Celik said Turkey was doing its part in the deal with EU.
He said the refugee deal between the two sides would continue if the EU accepted Ankara’s fresh offer that would be submitted in May.
“If they accept our proposal, the [refugee] deal would be completed in a positive way, otherwise it would come to a standstill,” he said.
The EU and Turkey agreed in March last year on a plan to stop migration through illegal channels in the Aegean Sea by cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to take back all Syrians who crossed into the Greek islands illegally from Turkey, and the EU promised to take in the same number of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
The agreement also called for visa waiver for Turks visiting the EU.
While the plan successfully reduced refugee flows, the European Commission demanded Ankara to fulfill seven outstanding criteria out of a total of 72, including “revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards.”
Ankara has repeatedly ruled out any such revision.
Celik said it was Turkey’s right to get a visa-free regime from the EU since Ankara had done its part of the agreement.
He added that Turkey rescued the EU and its political map by taking care of millions of refugees.