Sunday

25th Sep 2016

EU and Erdogan try to defuse tensions

  • Juncker (l) and Tusk (c) with Turkey's president (Photo: European Union)

The EU and Turkey have sought to defuse tensions amid a meeting in China between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top EU officials.

EU Council chief Donald Tusk on Monday (5 September), before his return flight, tweeted a picture of himself sitting with Erdogan and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The men had met in the margins of the China G20 summit, with Juncker’s spokesman also posting optimistic messages on social media.

An EU source told this website that the two sides had agreed to "tone down tensions a bit" following the failed military coup against Erdogan in mid-July.

But despite the niceties, Ergodan spoke out bluntly the same day, telling the G20 press corps that the West was “racist”.

"The protectionist and even racist attitude adopted by the West regarding the refugee issue is a shame for humanity," he was quoted as saying by a government-friendly Turkish newspaper, the Daily Sabah.

Erdogan has accused the West of failing to demonstrate solidarity several times since the failed putsch.

The bad relations were made worse by EU criticism of his purge of thousands of suspected coup sympathisers, in a situation that appeared to imperil the EU-Turkey accord on migration.

But the EU source said the agreement, which attempts to prevent people from crossing the Aegean sea to seek asylum in Greece, is "mutually beneficial".

Erdogan, said the source, had also agreed to remove a self-imposed deadline for the EU to lift visa restrictions on Turkish nationals.

The Turkish president had previously threatened to scrap the migrant deal should visas remain in place in October.

The EU, for its part, insists that Turkey reform its anti-terror laws as a precondition for the waivers. Ankara has refused.

An EU commission spokesperson on Monday told reporters in Brussels that the migrant deal with Turkey remains intact.

She noted that some 1,244 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey to various member states.

"Returns also continue to Turkey, which is the other part of this agreement," she said.

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