Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Turkey recalls ambassador from Austria

  • A pro-Kurdish rally in London, in March 2016. (Photo: Ron F./Flickr)

Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Vienna amid a deepening diplomatic row.

Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday (21 August) he was angered that people were allowed to rally in support of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government and features on the EU's list of terrorist organisations.

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“Unfortunately, the ground on which our bilateral relations and cooperation with Austria can be normally sustained has disappeared,” he said. “We cannot be two-faced like them, we are against all kinds of terror.”

He accused Austria of refusing to allow a "peaceful march" in support of Turkish democracy in the wake of the foiled coup.

But he gave no details, and the Austrian police told this website it wasn't aware of any bans on demonstrations.

A pro-Erdogan rally took place in Vienna on 16 July, with roughly 4,000 people reportedly taking part.

Austria’s foreign minister Sebastian Kurz defended the right of demonstrators to protest and display loyalty with their homeland. But he said they should stop short of "importing the political conflict to Austria", after some demonstrators attacked the garden of a Turkish-Kurdish restaurant.

The mayor of Wiener Neustadt, a small town near Vienna, later asked residents to remove Turkish flags from their windows.

Another row erupted when a news ticker at Vienna airport earlier this month carried claims from Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstroem that Turkey had legalised sex with children. The allegations were denied by Turkey and refuted by legal experts.

Worsening relations

Relations between Austria - home to some 300,000 people of Turkish origin - and Turkey went downhill after last month’s coup attempt.

Chancellor Christian Kern angered Ankara when calling accession talks with Turkey a "diplomatic fiction” earlier this month and said the EU needed "an alternative concept".

He also said the Turkish citizens protesting against the coup in Austria were ”radical”.

Cavusoglu replied by calling Austria the “capital of radical racism”.

"During the coup and afterwards, instead of supporting Turkey they have done the exact opposite," Cavusoglu said.

EU not abandoning Turkey

The EU relies on Turkey to stop thousands of asylum seekers and migrants from travelling to Europe, enshrined in a migrant-swap deal signed in March this year.

Despite rising diplomatic tension, EU leaders insist that the deal must continue. But the government's post-coup crackdown has worried critics that Turkey is moving away from democracy and rule of law.

The European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this month rejected Austria's call for the EU to end membership talks with Turkey, warning it would be a grave mistake.

"I don't think it would be helpful if we were to unilaterally end negotiations with Turkey," he told German public broadcaster ARD, adding that such a decision can only be made with unanimity from all member states.

Turkey’s ambassador to the EU, Selim Yenel, told this website earlier this month that he hoped EU-Turkey relations would improve when leaders travelled to Turkey and saw the situation with their own eyes.

The European Parliament’s Elmar Brok, chair of the foreign affairs committee (Afet) and Kati Piri, the parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, started an official visit on Tuesday.

Germany’s European affairs minister Michael Roth will pay a visit to Turkey later this week.

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