'Visa liberalization to accelerate Turkey-EU relations'

Turkish presidential spokesperson says they expect visa-free regime to be realized soon

By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet

Turkish presidential spokesperson on Wednesday said visa liberalization with the European Union in 2018 will boost the country’s relations with the EU states.

Speaking at a news briefing in Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said they expect the visa-free regime to be realized soon.

"The launch of this [visa liberation] in 2018 will accelerate Turkey-EU relations," said Kalin.

Kalin said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will participate in a Turkey-EU summit scheduled to be held in Bulgaria’s Varna city on March 26.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Ankara had finalized a draft document for Turkish citizens to travel to Schengen countries visa-free and would be submitting it to the EU Commission soon.

Under a EU-Turkey readmission agreement signed in March 2016, Ankara is supposed to readmit all irregular asylum seekers who reach Greek islands from Turkey.

Visa liberalization for Turkish citizens traveling to Schengen zone countries is one of the key EU promises made under the deal.

- 'No contact with Assad regime'

Kalin also said his country has no contact with with Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

"We do not have any contact with the [Assad] regime, [and] currently establishing such a contact is out of question," said Kalin.

On Jan. 20, Turkey along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and the "utmost care and sensitivity" were being used to not harm civilians. Turkey to submit final papers on visa free regime to EU.

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