ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's coast guard has prevented 48 Syrian migrants from reaching Greece, but Turkey's foreign minister said Saturday that the migrant deal is at risk if the country's citizens aren't granted visa-free travel.
The migrants on a rubber dinghy were stopped after a tip early Friday, the coast guard said in a statement. Aerial footage accompanying the statement shows the dinghy at sea followed by the rescue operation off the coast of Kusadasi in western Turkey.
According to coast guard statistics, 1,812 migrants have been stopped at sea and 19 smugglers apprehended this year.
The number of migrants making the illegal crossing to Greece dropped dramatically since the EU-Turkey migrant deal last March. Turkey also agreed to take back migrants who crossed to Greece after the deal was struck, unless they qualify for asylum, in return for 6 billion euros and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
Plans for visa liberalization have been stalled, as the EU demands that Turkey amend its anti-terrorism legislation.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster CNN Turk Saturday that Europe must stop insisting on changes to Turkey's terror laws.
Cavusoglu said Turkey would present a final text to the EU as they near the final stages of negotiations and "either all agreements, including the migrant deal and the readmission deal, would be cancelled if there is no visa-free travel or they would all be put into application."