TURKEY’S controversial visa deal is a major step in the country’s "strategic goal" of joining the European Union, leader Tayyip Erdogan declared.
It comes just days after the president said Ankara would not change its terror laws as part of the EU agreement declaring "we're going our way, you go yours”.
In a desperate bid to repair damage after the outburst, Erdogan today insisted it was his great aim to join the bloc, saying: ”EU membership, a strategic goal for Turkey, will be a source of stability and inspiration for the region.
"I hope that the agreed visa exemption deal will relieve some of the frustration caused by more than 50 years of waiting at the EU's gates… and that it accelerates Turkey's accession process.”
The EU had asked member states to grant visa-free travel to Turks in return for Ankara stopping migrants from reaching Europe, but the deal is being held up because Turkey still had to change some legislation, including bringing its terrorism laws in line with EU standards.
Turkey has repeatedly said without visa liberalisation, there would be no migrant deal.
Concerns are rising in Europe that the deal may collapse after last week's announcement by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the main Turkish broker of the accord, that he will step down amid tensions with Erdogan.
Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said Ankara would develop the "necessary policies" on visa liberalisation with the EU and would implement them in line with Erdogan's recent statements.
Erdogan's reaffirmation of Turkey's EU aspirations comes amid growing unease within the 28-nation bloc about what is viewed as the Turkish president's authoritarian style of leadership and his intolerance of media criticism.
Terror laws have been used to clamp down on the media and any other dissent against the government.
Two prominent journalists from an opposition Turkish newspaper were jailed last Friday on charges of revealing state secrets in a case in which Erdogan was named as a complainant.
However, EU governments' public criticism has been muted because they need Ankara's cooperation on migrants.
Turkey began its EU accession talks in 2005 after decades of knocking on the door but progress has been very slow due to a range of issues including its human rights record and Cyprus.