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Turkey Abolishes Visas for Greek Cypriots within Migrant Deal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An immigrant child waiting for her turn to receive food aid close to Ellinikon International Airport in Athens on Tuesday

Brussels-Turkish source said on Tuesday that Greeks will not need visas any more to enter Turkey by the virtue of the deal between Ankara and the European Union; confirming that this does not mean that Turkey will recognize Cyprus.

According to Reuters, Turkey’s cabinet has approved waiving visas for EU citizens once Europe relaxes its own visa requirements for Turks, the decision was published in Turkey’s Official Gazette.

Visa liberalization for Greek Cypriots is one of the 72 criteria required by Brussels for Turkey to win visa waiving for Turks.

One of the biggest obstacles in Turkey’s accession to the EU is Ankara’s refusal to recognize Cyprus. However, Cyprus has international recognition, while the island’s north part that is occupied by the Turks since 1974 is recognized only by Ankara.

Cyprus has been divided for four decades now, North Cyprus is controlled by Turkish Cypriots and is known as Ankara, and South Cyprus is controlled by Greek Cypriots and its government is internationally recognized.

According to the Reuters report, the Turkish official confirmed Ankara’s relaxation of visa requirements for EU citizens would also apply to Greek Cypriots.

“This doesn’t mean the recognition of Cyprus. If the EU abolishes visas for Turkish citizens, then we will also abolish visas for the remaining EU countries,” the official said.

“Right now, Greek Cypriots can already travel to Turkey, but we are issuing their visa on a separate paper. With this new arrangement they won’t need a visa,” he added.

In a common matter, the European Commission is expected to back visa-free travel for Turkish citizens inside Europe’s passport-free Schengen area, in return for Turkey taking back migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece.
Moreover, sources told AFP that the European Commission, EU’s executive arm would recommend that, if Ankara meets the remaining criteria, the 28 member states and the European Parliament should approve the Turkish visa plan.

Since the EU-Turkey deal came into force on March 20, numbers of arrivals in Greece have dropped dramatically.

Ankara has agreed to take back all migrants arriving in the Greek islands, on the condition that the EU resettles one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every Syrian refugee that Turkey accepts from Greece.

The EU also agreed to speed up Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid in addition to promising visa liberalization.

But many EU states still have concerns about the legality of the deal and the human rights situation in Turkey.

According to a European source, Turkey must complete five more benchmarks by the end of next month to complete the EU’s list of 72, which include biometric passports and human rights issues.

Under the plan, Turkish citizens would be allowed to make 90-day visits to Europe’s 26-country Schengen passport-free area for business or tourism without needing a visa.

In April, Turkey has threatened to tear up a March agreement to take back migrants from Europe if the EU fails to keep its promise to allow Turkish citizens to travel without visas to the passport-free Schengen area by the end of June.

However, the Commission further announced a six-month extension of border controls in the Schengen zone, which have been reintroduced in some places as a result of the migrant crisis and recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Germany, France, Austria, Denmark and Sweden requested the extension, saying the border situation remains “extremely volatile”.

Since 2015 several countries in the Schengen zone have reintroduced border controls due to the migrant crisis, effectively suspending its principle of border-free travel.
EU rules say countries can reintroduce border controls for up to two years, in periods of up to six months at a time, in exceptional circumstances.

In addition, on Wednesday the Commission will unveil its long-awaited proposal for replacing its outdated asylum system with a mechanism for relocating refugees in a crisis.

The so-called Dublin rules currently in force have been criticized as outdated and unfair to countries like Greece, where most of the migrants entered the bloc last year and their number amounted to 250 thousand asylum seekers.

Under the Dublin rules, migrants seeking asylum must lodge their application in the country where they first arrived, and should be returned there if they try to move elsewhere in the bloc.

For its part, the “Financial Times” said that the European Commission proposed making countries pay a “solidarity contribution” of 250,000 ($290,000) euros per refugee they decline to take.