Turkey threatens to scrap migrant deal with EU after Greek ruling

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.

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

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