By Nazlı Yuzbasioglu and Sultan Cogalan
Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik said Wednesday there was no possibility of changing the country's anti-terrorism laws –as requested by the EU– as it would "endanger both Turkey’s and Europe’s security."
Changing counter-terrorism legislation is a key condition of a visa-free travel agreement between the European Union and Turkey.
"We reiterated [during the last Brussels visit] that we cannot meet EU’s demand for an amendment to the anti-terror laws. However, there is not any problem in fulfilling the other criteria", he told a joint news conference with U.K. Minister for Europe Alan Duncan in Ankara.
"To ask a country, which has been faced with many terrorist attacks to change its anti-terror law, is to put both the security of Turkey and Europe in jeopardy," Celik said, recalling last Sunday’s deadly attack on a night club in Istanbul which claimed the lives of 39 people on New Year’s Eve.
The minister said that due to Turkey’s geopolitical position, it was also a provider of Europe’s security.
"If the parties desire an agreement, the solution could be found. But if it [solution] is not desired, the process will be blocked."
Celik said that a meeting was planned soon in Turkey with EU officials including European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans.
He also said the EU accepted Turkey’s previous proposal to hold a bilateral summit and the EU officials were working on setting a date.
"A summit between the TR-EU is needed. Let's not talk about behind each other back, let’s talk to each other," he said.
Celik also criticized the “mixed” response given across the EU over the terrorist attacks in Turkey.
"Why is it that when Turkey is attacked by Daesh, the Turkish flag is put up on public buildings, but the same solidarity is not displayed when it is an attack by the PKK?," he asked.
Turkey and the EU signed a deal in March 2016 aiming to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets 72 requirements set by the EU.
While Turkey has fulfilled most of the criteria, differences between Brussels and Ankara on anti-terror legislation have forestalled the visa liberalization deal.