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Turkey may hold referendum over EU accession, FM says

Turkey could hold a referendum on whether it should continue its bid to join the European Union if the accession process does not move forward, the country’s foreign minister said on Thursday."We [get] our power from the nation. If the EU negotiation process [does not move forward], as President Erdogan tried to say, then we may ask the public whether we should continue negotiations," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara on Thursday. 


Cavusoglu's comments came one day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey too could hold a Brexit style referendum on its process to join the EU. 


"But we believe that common sense would dominate the meetings", Cavusoglu said. "We want to continue our way with the EU, especially in visa-free travel deal, we want something that is our right." 


Cavusoglu said Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions would be opened on June 30 with the participation of First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmerman and Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik.  


In an interview published earlier Wednesday in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Erdogan would need to explain to the Turkish people if the visa-liberalization deal fails. 


"If Mr. Erdogan seriously tries to break the agreement, then it will be his job to tell the Turks why they cannot enjoy visa-free travel to Europe," he had said. 


But Erdogan criticized Juncker of “not knowing” Turks. 


“You do not know the Turkish nation at all. These people are not after visa-free travel. It is you who are concerned about what might happen if Turkey opens its doors and all refugees walk towards Europe,” he said. 


The EU and Turkey signed a refugee deal on March 18, which aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly three 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. 


Although Turkey fulfilled most of the criteria last month, differences between Brussels and Ankara on anti-terror legislation have forestalled the visa-liberalization deal.

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