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European Commission calls for continuing Turkey-Greece migrant deal

People wait at Athens International Airport as 234 refugees are transferred to Lyon of France within the EU Relocation Programme of International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Athens, Greece on 18 October, 2017 [Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency]
People wait at Athens International Airport as 234 refugees are transferred to Lyon of France within the EU Relocation Programme of International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Athens, Greece on 18 October, 2017 [Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency]

The European Commission has called for the continuation of the bilateral migrant readmission deal between Turkey and Greece.

“The commission’s position is that it should be continuously implemented in order to meet all remaining benchmarks under the visa liberalisation roadmap with Turkey,” the Commission’s spokesperson Natasha Bertaud told a press briefing Friday.

Her remarks came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Thursday that Ankara was suspending its bilateral migrant readmission deal with Greece.

The suspension followed Greek authorities refusal to extradite ex-Turkish soldiers who took part in the defeated coup of 2016.

Bertaud clarified the decision concerned a bilateral deal between Greece and Turkey, not the EU-Turkey statement.

“We are in touch with both the Greek and Turkish authorities to inquire further. This concerns a bilateral agreement between Greece and Turkey,” she said.

Cavusoglu had also said: “There is a migrant deal with the EU, this is in effect. And there is a bilateral readmission deal with Greece, we have now suspended that deal.”

Read: Over 10,000 migrants have returned home from Greece

A readmission protocol between Greece and Turkey was signed in 2002 to combat illegal migration.

In late May, the Greek Council of State granted asylum to ex-Turkish soldier Suleyman Ozkaynakci, who Ankara accuses of being involved in the 2016 coup bid. In January, the Greek Supreme Court ruled against extraditing the former soldiers — a move Turkey called “politically motivated”.

Turkey has repeatedly called for the extradition of the suspected coup-plotters, including during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to Greece last December.

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