Turkey threatens ending EU refugee deal amid diplomatic crisis with Germany and the Netherlands

President and Foreign Minister both threaten to scrap deal

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 16 March 2017 16:14 GMT
Mr Erdogan said the EU could 'forget about' the migrant deal
Mr Erdogan said the EU could 'forget about' the migrant deal

Turkey has threatened to end a refugee deal amid the deepening diplomatic crisis with the European Union.

Tensions are running high after Germany and the Netherlands prevented Turkish politicians from holding rallies intended to bolster support for a referendum on giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Turkey may cancel a migrant readmission agreement with the EU and said it is also reevaluating a $6bn (£4.9bn) refugee deal with the bloc.

Mr Erdogan later said in a televised speech the EU could "forget about" the migrant deal, first struck in 2013 in which Turkey agreed to take back migrants who travelled illegally to the EU in return for the promise of visa-free travel.

He accused the EU of not sticking with a promise to grant Turkish nationals the right to travel visa-free in Europe and went on to accuse Europe of starting a “clash” between Christianity and Islam after a ruling allowed employers to ban headscarves as part of wider restrictions on religious and political symbols.

Hundreds of pro-Turkey protesters clash with police in Rotterdam

"We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalisation issue," Mr Cavusoglu said in an interview on Kanal 24.

"We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal."

His comments come on the first anniversary of a deal to stop would-be refugees from crossing into Greece, in exchange for financial aid for those staying in Turkey and accelerated EU membership talks.The row escalated after the Dutch government banned a rally in Rotterdam at the weekend.

Mr Erdogan retaliated by branding the Netherlands "Nazi remnants." He also accused Germany of "fascist actions" after it cancelled several planned rallies.

EU leaders called the allegations offensive and "detached from reality."

Turkish hackers spread Nazi accusations across high profile Twitter accounts, posting pro-Erdogan messages from accounts including Amnesty International, BBC North America and Forbes.

A day after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was reelected, Mr Erdogan said he had lost the friendship of Ankara over the row.

Despite Mr Rutte's victory over the far-right populist leader Geert Wilders, the Turkish foreign minister claimed "holy wars will soon begin" in Europe.

“Now the election is over in the Netherlands...when you look at the many parties you see there is no difference between the social democrats and fascist Wilders,” Mr Cavusoglu said.

French President Francois Hollande said the comparisons with the Nazis are unacceptable and expressed solidarity with Germany and the Netherlands.

Mr Erdogan, who survived a military coup last summer, has defended his plans to amass greater powers, saying Turkey needs greater stability.

His crackdown on dissenting voices among the judiciary and the media since the failed coup has drawn condemnation from the West.

The EU is, however, caught between holding Mr Erdogan accountable and guaranteeing the continuation of a deal to control the flow of refugees who pass through Turkey and into Europe.

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