First Published: 2017-01-27

Turkey threatens to cancel migrant deal after Greece ruling
Ankara considering scrapping deal to retake illegal migrants landing in Greece after Greek Supreme Court refuses to extradite eight soldiers suspected of involvement in July’s failed military coup.
Middle East Online

Turkish soldiers fled to Greece by helicopter after failed coup

ANKARA -Turkey on Friday threatened to abandon a key pillar of a deal with the EU to reduce the migrant flow after Greece blocked the extradition of alleged coup suspects.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was considering scrapping a "readmission agreement" under which Turkey has been taking in migrants sent back across the Aegean after landing illegally in Greece.

His remarks followed Thursday's decision by the Greek Supreme Court not to hand over eight former military officers wanted in connection with last year's failed putsch in a move which angered Ankara.

The move has put a severe strain on diplomatic ties between the two neighbours who have been working closely on both the refugee issue and to resolve the Cyprus dispute through talks in Geneva.

"We are now considering what we are going to do," Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber a day after the ruling.

"We have a readmission agreement between us and Greece, with the European Union. We are going to take necessary steps, including the cancellation of this readmission agreement," he added.

Last March, Turkey and the EU signed a landmark agreement in which Ankara pledged to take back all illegal migrants landing in Greece to help stem migrant flows to the EU.

There is also an existing agreement between Ankara and Athens on Turkey's readmission of illegal migrants.

The March deal helped put the brakes on a massive influx of migrants and refugees, especially from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which has mushroomed into a combustible political and social issue in Europe.

Turkey's pledge was aimed at deterring migrants from making the perilous sea crossing in the first place, knowing they could be sent back.

Some 1,183 migrants have been returned to Turkey in the past 12 months, Greek police figures show.

- 'Political' ruling -

Turkey could not "look favourably on a country which protects terrorists, traitors, coup-plotters," Cavusoglu said.

"Greece needs to know this."

The Greek court's decision blocked the extradition on grounds the men would not have a fair trial in Turkey, in a move which Cavusoglu denounced as "political".

The suspects landed by helicopter in Greece a day after the botched putsch, demanding asylum. They were immediately taken into custody on grounds of entering the country illegally, but the Supreme Court ordered them released.

However they remain in police custody "for reasons of national security," Greek state agency ANA said, citing police sources. This stems from their illegal entry.

Earlier Friday, the Turkish justice ministry submitted a second extradition request to Greece for the return of the officers, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

The officers deny any part in the attempted putsch to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and say their lives would be in danger should they return to Turkey.

Their asylum requests were initially rejected but appeals are currently being processed.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office defended the court's refusal to extradite, stressing that the Greek justice system was "solely qualified to deal with such issues and (that) its decisions are binding."

- 'Deal continues' -

Historical foes but now NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have enjoyed warmer ties under Erdogan, though tensions never completely disappeared.

In a bid to mollify Ankara, Tsipras' office released a statement stressing that "those responsible for the coup are not welcome in our country."

But Cavusoglu said the ruling would have an "effect on relations whether we want it to or not."

Despite his remarks, European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said she was confident that the migrant deal would remain in place.

"The EU-Turkey statement continues to be applied by both sides and we are confident that it will remain the case".

The deal has already come under strain over the delay in granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel to Europe in the Schengen zone, which Ankara sees as the EU's side of the bargain in the accord

 

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Students in Damascus brave shelling to attend school

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant

Morocco arrests three suspected IS terrorists

Family of dead environmentalist in Iran threatened

Israel hands life sentence to Palestinian for triple murder

US appeals to Turkey to concentrate on fighting IS

Turkey sets up new 'observation point' in Syria's Idlib

Malaysia rejects criticism over Israeli visit

Tillerson in Ankara to ease Turkey tensions

Egypt arrests ex-presidential candidate

Tillerson: Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's 'political process'

Netanyahu says government ‘stable’ despite police recommending indictment

Corruption accusations facing Netanyahu

Syria denies ‘unacceptable’ chemical weapons use

Nations pledge nearly $25 billion toward Iraq's reconstruction

Egypt remands in custody former anti-corruption chief