May 18, 2016 / 8:47 PM / in 3 years

Turkey angered over EU envoy's remark on EU migrant deal - sources

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey summoned the top European Union envoy in the country on Tuesday to complain about comments he made last week on the migration deal between Ankara and the EU, Turkish foreign ministry sources said on Wednesday.

Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian coastguard vessel Peluso in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

Turkish officials took offensive at Hansjoerg Haber’s use of an unflattering German saying to describe how a plan to ease visa restrictions for Turks travelling to Europe had started off in an orderly way but run into problems recently.

Turkey and the EU have been discussing visa liberalisation since 2013 and agreed in March to go ahead with it as part of a deal to halt waves of illegal immigration from Turkey to the EU.

But progress halted when Brussels insisted that Ankara must also reform its tough anti-terror laws for another part of the deal - further talks on EU membership for Turkey - to resume. Turkey said that was out of the question.

“We have a proverb - ‘start off like a Turk and finish like a German’. But the reverse has happened here. It started off like a German and is finishing like a Turk,” Haber, a German who heads the EU delegation in Turkey, told journalists last Friday, according to a report in the newspaper Hurriyet.

“We have conveyed the anger felt over the ambassador’s comments to him, and that we condemn the expressions he used,” one foreign ministry source said.

The disputed migration deal includes funding to help Turkey care for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who had hoped to use its shores to take boats to Greece.

Turkey says the EU demand to ease anti-terror laws, which some European leaders and rights groups says Ankara uses to stifle dissent, was not possible at a time when it is battling Kurdish and Islamic State militants.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir has criticised Haber for his remark, saying they were not appropriate for an ambassador and called him to explain what he meant.

“No ambassador has the right to humiliate the people of the country he is in and say something about its president. This is the first rule of diplomacy,” he tweeted last week.

It was not clear what Bozkir was referring to in his mention of a comment by Haber about President Tayyip Erdogan.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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