Erdogan slams EU over PKK, lack of progress on funds for Syrians

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed sharp criticism of the European Union on Tuesday, accusing the bloc of harbouring terrorist support camps and not following through with the aid it pledged for Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey.

In a televised speech from the capital Ankara, Erdogan alleged there were "safe ports" for the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Europe that provided the group ideological and logisitic help.

Erdogan also reiterated that Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism laws - something the EU is demanding before it grants Turkish citizens visa-free access to the bloc as part of a deal reached between Brussels and Ankara to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe.

He called the demand for a change a "disaster," while insisting the visa regime should be upgraded by October at the latest.

The pushback against the changes to the anti-terrorism laws are clouding the future of the migration deal reached in March. Turkey has indicated the deal would fall apart if the visa-free access was not granted.

The outspoken Turkish president also said Brussels should release more than 3 billion dollars in promised aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, which is also part of the March agreement. The EU was mocking the "nobility of the nation," he said.

The Europeans have wanted clearer information from Turkey on which projects the money would help before transferring funds. Erdogan was angered by the European insistence. Turkey says it has already spent some 10 billion dollars on Syrians since 2011.

Turkey hosts some 2.2 million Syrians from the war-torn neighbouring country, according to UN data.

Addressing the recurring theme of changing Turkey's constitution to empower the presidency, Erdogan said the country could not be a "lion sentenced to a vegetarian diet."

The phrase quickly became popular on social media by both fans and critics of the divisive leader.

Opponents of the president worry that his desire to strengthen his own office will weaken parliament at a time that Erdogan is already accused of authoritarianism.

European critics of the migration deal have also cited similar concerns.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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