Turkey, Austria clash over Vienna bid to end Ankara's EU talks

Turkey and Austria exchanged heated accusations on Thursday after Vienna called for an end to Ankara's negotiations to join the European Union due to its lack of democratic standards in the wake of a failed coup.

Turkey has been a candidate to join the European Union since 1999, but progress has been slow. Government sources in Ankara said Thursday that EU membership remained a strategic goal.

On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern had called for a discussion on the future of the bloc's membership talks with Ankara, adding that he would raise the issue at an informal EU summit on September 16.

"We know that Turkey's democratic standards are far from sufficient to justify an accession," Kern told Austrian daily Die Presse. The negotiations with Ankara are "a diplomatic fiction," he said earlier on the ORF public broadcaster.

The spat escalated on Thursday when Turkey charged Austria with appealing to right-wing extremists by criticizing the country.

"To be honest, I find it extremely disturbing that this kind of statement bears such similarity to the statements of right-wing extremists in Europe," Turkish Europe Minister Omer Celik said, according to Turkish state agency Anadolu.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz hit back at the minister's charge on Twitter: "Turkey has to do its homework and moderate its own language and actions."

Nearly 26,000 people have been detained in Turkey since the July 15 coup attempt, while tens of thousands of civil servants have lost their jobs. Several journalists have also been arrested in a government crackdown.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it would be a "grave foreign-policy mistake" to end EU membership negotiations with Turkey at this stage, in comments to the German public broadcaster ARD published Thursday.

He also noted that he did not see enough appetite for the move among the EU's 28 member states, who would have to take such a decision by unanimity.

Meanwhile Thursday, an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, stating that he had ordered the June 15 coup, according to Anadolu. A previous warrant was issued against him last year allegedly for founding and leading an armed terrorist organization.

Turkish officials are demanding Gulen's extradition, but no official request has been filed to the United States, where he lives.

Last update: Thu, 04/08/2016 - 17:08

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