Published On: Sun, Aug 20th, 2017

Austria joins Germany in condemning Erdogan interference

BERLIN (Reuters) – Austria has joined neighbor Germany in its criticism of the Turkish President over inflammatory comments ahead of the European Union members’ forthcoming elections.

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have been under growing strain since last year’s failed military coup in Turkey, with European-Turkish nationals among the 50,000 people since detained in what critics condemn as an indiscriminate crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Saturday Erdogan repeated calls for Turks in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Germany’s “anti-Turkish” mainstream parties in next month’s parliamentary election and delivered a scornful response to German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel’s warning that the Turkish president should keep out of German politics.

“Who are you to talk to the president of Turkey? Talk to Turkey’s foreign minister. Know your place,” Erdogan said at a rally for his AK Party in the southwestern province of Denizli.

Austria’s foreign minister Sebastian Kurz entered the fray on Sunday, criticizing Erdogan in an interview with newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag. Kurz, who is running for Chancellor in October’s election, accused Erdogan of trying to rile up the Turkish diaspora.

“President Erdogan is trying to instrumentalize ethnic Turkish communities, especially in German and Austria,” he told the paper. “He polarises and brings Turkish conflicts into the EU.

“I condemn the constant interference by Erdogan in the internal affairs of other states – and it’s not happening only in Germany.”

The final days before elections in the Netherlands this year were overshadowed by violent protests by local affiliates of Erdogan’s party. German security officials have expressed concern that the same could be repeated in Germany.

With all three countries home to vast Turkish communities, relations with Europe’s southeastern neighbor have often been fraught, though rarely to the extent seen in the past year, with leading European politicians accusing Erdogan of a dictatorial power grab.

On Saturday Ankara’s crackdown against its critics extended into the EU itself, when Spain, acting on a Turkish notice sent by Interpol, arrested a Turkish-German writer, provoking a furious reaction from Berlin. The writer was released on Sunday, German media reported.

Germany’s Gabriel welcomed the release from detention of writer Dogan Akhanli, who must remain in Spain while Spanish authorities assess Turkey’s extradition request.

“It would be regrettable if Turkey were able to succeed in having people who raise their voice against President Erdogan arrested even at the other end of Europe,” Gabriel said in a statement.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by David Goodman

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