ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the European Union had presented Turkey with a new 12-month timetable for renewing their relations, the Hurriyet daily said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters on the return flight from this week’s NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan was cited by Hurriyet as saying that during the summit, Turkey and the EU had agreed on giving a new impetus to relations and added Turkey’s foreign and EU affairs ministries would work towards the timetable.
Turkey’s relations with the European Union, particularly Germany, have deteriorated sharply after a series of diplomatic rows.
Erdogan was quoted as saying he had put the issue of the visa liberalization on the agenda during meetings with EU officials, and that Turkish and EU officials would work together on the issue.
Turkey agreed in early 2016 to help curb a flood of migrants into Europe in return for visa-free travel for Turks to Europe and 3 billion euros ($3.35 billion) in EU financial aid. But Brussels first wants Ankara to modify anti-terrorism laws that it says are too broad.
Most recently, Turkey has expressed anger that Germany is granting asylum to Turks, more than 400 of them with diplomatic passports and government working permits, accused of participating in a failed coup in July. The failed putsch prompted a purge of the Turkish military, judiciary and civil service.
Western countries have criticized Turkey for what they say is the heavy-handed nature of the clamp-down following the coup attempt, and for the behavior of Turkish politicians while visiting their countries.
Turkey this month blocked German lawmakers from visiting the troops at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, prompting Berlin to say it may consider moving the troops. Some 250 German troops are stationed at Incirlik, where they contribute to the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State.
Erdogan said Turkey would say “goodbye” if Germany decided to withdraw its troops from Incirlik, adding Ankara had not received any sign from Berlin on the possible withdrawal of troops stationed at the base in southern Turkey.
At their meeting in Brussels, Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a parliamentary delegation would be allowed to visit Incirlik if the German foreign minister presented a list of names to Turkey beforehand.
“There can be some among German lawmakers who openly support terrorists,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
The row has placed Europe in an awkward position with Turkey, which has seen its decades-old bid to join the bloc move at snail’s pace due to concerns over its human rights record, ethnically-split Cyprus, and reluctance among some European countries to admit a largely Muslim nation.
Erdogan has suggested Turkey could hold a referendum on continuing EU accession talks, and possibly another on reinstating the death penalty. Restoring capital punishment, which Turkey abolished over a decade ago, would all but end Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Toby Chopra)