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23rd Mar 2019

Turkey threatens retaliation against Austria

  • Turkey hosts some 3 million refugees (Photo: European Parliament)

Tensions continue to flare between Ankara and Vienna following Austria's bid, earlier this week, to formally block Turkey’s EU membership talks.

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Austrian TV radio station O1 on Thursday (15 December) that Turkey would "take action against Austria at all levels and on all issues" in retaliation.

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The minister, who previously described Austria as the capital of racism, did not elaborate on the nature of the action.

Criticism was also hurled by Turkey's minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, who accused Austria of "sabotaging the EU project".

“There is no difference between the rhetoric of the Austrian foreign minister and the rhetoric of any racist party," Celik was quoted as saying on Thursday by Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Austria's foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz in Brussels on Tuesday,demanded a freeze in Turkey’s EU talks due to its purge of alleged sympathisers with a failed coup in July and with Kurdish separatists.

Turkey has jailed 36,000 people, including opposition MPs, and shut down leading media for their alleged links.

Kurz said it “was wrong to continue accession negotiations as if nothing negative has happened in Turkey in the last few months."

The other EU states rejected Austria’s proposal.

They opted to maintain full relations with Turkey for strategic reasons and to issue verbal warnings on its post-coup crackdown instead.

EU leaders, at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, also said they remained committed to an EU-Turkey deal on migration.

The called for “full and non-discriminatory implementation of all aspects" of the deal, under which Turkey stops migrants from going to Greece in return closer EU relations.

Ties between Austria and Turkey have been fraying for the past few months.

In November, Austria's defence minister, Hans Peter Doskozil, said the EU needed contingency plans in case the migrant deal unravelled.

Other EU personalities and the European Parliament has also heaped rebuked on Turkey.

Luxembourg's foreign minister Jean Asselborn compared Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s "methods, one must say this bluntly, [to those] that were used during Nazi rule [in Germany]”.

The migrant deal, signed off in March, has since been used as leverage by Turkey in its efforts to gain visa-free travel to the EU.

Verbal tit-for-tats have become almost a weekly occurrence, with Erdogan threatening to scrap the deal if Turks are not granted the visa waiver, and with the EU saying it must amend its terrorism laws first.

"If we do not get the expected outcome regarding the visa issue ... if promises are not fulfilled, Turkey will no doubt have a plan B and it will have a plan C," Erdogan said on Thursday in Ankara.

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