Gul says EU's strict visa regulations toward Turkey unacceptable

Gul says EU's strict visa regulations toward Turkey unacceptable

With the EU signing visa liberalization agreements with non-EU-candidate countries, President Abdullah Gul called the European body's strict visa policy toward Turkish citizens "unacceptable," following the announcement of a visa liberalization dialogue on Wednesday Today`s Zaman reported.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to Gaziantep on Friday, Gul commented on the visa liberalization dialogue agreement between Turkey and the EU that will be signed on Dec. 16. He said the signing of the agreement is a significant step as Turkey has already integrated into the EU to a large extent.

Gul complained of the troubles Turkey has faced during its EU candidacy, saying that although Turkey has been conducting negotiations for full membership and is a full member in the EU's Customs Union, Turkish nationals -- including important scientists, athletes and investors -- have had a difficult time trying to visit European Union countries. He said while the EU is lifting visa restrictions on people from Latin America to Russia and from the Balkans to many other countries, it was applying harsh conditions on Turkey.

"Now efforts and bargains -- as they also have made demands from us -- have reached a certain point. I hope in a short time, [maybe] in a few years, Turkish citizens can [have] the right to travel to European countries without visas. I see this as an important development," he said.

In Brussels, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced on Wednesday in a joint conference with EU Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and Stefan Fule that Turkish citizens will be able to travel to European countries without visas in three years' time after Turkey and the EU reached an agreement to start a "visa liberalization dialogue" in Ankara on Dec. 16. The readmission agreement will also be signed simultaneously to end a several-year-long saga that has been blocking the elimination of visa requirements for Turkish citizens seeking to travel to Europe.

Gul welcomes release of Turan, gives positive signals to Egypt

President Gul also gave positive signals to Cairo by welcoming the news of the release of Turkish journalist Metin Turan from an Egyptian prison. He said Egypt is experiencing an extraordinary period and that every country has downturns in its history from time to time.

"The Egyptian nation is a friend and brother nation to Turkey. The problems that Egypt is experiencing are not permanent. We hope that Egypt will become a democracy as soon as possible and spend all its energy on becoming better off in every aspect of life. I'm very pleased regarding this development," he said.

"Egypt will ensure its stability and exert all its efforts to improve welfare and economic development," he added.

Turkey and Egypt have been at odds since the Egyptian coup on July 3. When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at a rally that he has no respect for those who put ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on trial, referring to Egypt's interim government, Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador and scaled back its diplomatic relations with Turkey to the level of chargé d'affaires in what came as a sharp escalation of tension that has been simmering between the two countries since the July military coup.

Ankara responded in kind, declaring Egypt's ambassador to Turkey, who had already left Turkey months ago amid the increasing tension, persona non grata. While Erdogan is determined to keep his tough stance on Egypt, President Gul approached the issue in such a way as to scale down tension.

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