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ANKARA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Turkey has proposed to the European Union to bring forward a visa liberalisation plan for its citizens that it wants before agreeing to take back illegal migrants who enter the EU through its territory.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told TGRT TV in an interview on Thursday that Ankara has offered the EU to seal a visa liberalisation agreement by the first half of 2016 instead of in 2017 as originally planned.
“We will not sign the readmission agreement before steps are taken on the Schengen visa and thus a visa liberalisation is secured for Turkish citizens,” Davutoglu said.
In December 2013, Turkey and the EU signed an agreement to consider visa liberalisation in parallel with a readmission agreement that would result in illegal migrants who enter Europe via Turkey being returned to Turkey.
“Without the readmission agreement, there is no way of making progress on the irregular entrance and readmission of the refugees,” said the prime minister, whose country hosts around 2.5 million refugees, mostly Syrians.
Turkey lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East, and some in western Europe fear Turkish membership would widen the bloc’s borders too far to the fringes of Iran, Iraq and Syria. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler and Tom Heneghan)