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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Turkey-Austria to herald new era in upcoming period

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The change in power as a result of former Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz, in power for the last five years, quitting politics due to the corruption investigation against him, and the important mission Turkey undertook in the Russia-Ukraine war brought Ankara and Vienna closer. A new era in relations is expected to begin with the bilateral meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Austrian Prime Minister Karl Nehammer at the end of this month. In Austria, one of the small countries of Central Europe, with a population of approximately 9 million, the right-wing populist Kurz and his team, who have been sitting on the prime minister’s seat for two consecutive terms in the last five years, and their strict attitude toward Muslims and migrants in the country and their negative approach toward Turkey, have caused tensions between the two countries in recent years. With the decision of Kurz to end his active political life at the end of last year due to the corruption investigation against him, the change in power had a positive impact on Turkey-Austria relations. While Turkey’s role as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine tension and the parties’ coming together at the negotiation table called the “Istanbul process” after the war started, the international public’s attention was turned to Ankara, while the Vienna administration did not remain indifferent to this development. First of all, the President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, had a telephone conversation with Erdoğan on March 1 and discussed the positive developments in bilateral relations and diplomatic solutions to end the war in Ukraine. Following this development, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg announced that they supported Turkey’s efforts to achieve peace by participating in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum. Nehammer’s phone calls with President Erdoğan before and after his visits to Kyiv and Moscow in April contributed to the positive development of bilateral relations. Emphasizing the importance of the Istanbul process at almost every opportunity, the Austrian chancellor believes that Turkey will play a decisive role in achieving a possible cease-fire or permanent peace between the warring parties. Expressing that they want to improve relations with Turkey, Nehammer will meet with President Erdoğan at the NATO Leaders Summit to be held in Madrid, the capital of Spain, at the end of this month. Turkey’s Ambassador to Vienna, Ozan Ceyhun, speaking to the Anadolu Agency (AA), said that there have been positive developments in Turkey-Austria relations in recent months and that the two countries are in close contact and consultation, especially in this period when efforts to end the Russia-Ukraine War continue. Ceyhun stated that there were many positive developments in the relations with Austria before the war, that the long-standing stagnation between parliaments was revived with mutual visits, and that these contacts contributed to the consolidation of relations. Reminding that the foreign ministers of the two countries came together at the meeting of the International Coalition Forces, formed to fight against the terrorist organization Daesh, in Rome, the capital of Italy, Ceyhun said: “In addition, they made phone calls. Lastly, last March, they held the Antalya Diplomatic Forum. It is on the agenda for them to meet again at the first opportunity in the coming period.” Ceyhun pointed out that the important mission undertaken by Turkey in the Ukraine crisis was appreciated by Austria and added: “Chancellor Nehammer supports the Istanbul talks as the only format that currently brings the warring parties together and is making efforts in Europe to provide support in this regard. We, too, consider the contact of neutral Austria, between Russia and Ukraine, to be important. In this context, we appreciated Mr. Nehammer’s visits to Kyiv and Moscow last April as courageous steps in the right direction. The coordination with our president before and after his visit to Moscow is an indication of our joint effort and will to establish peace. In this context, the last week’s telephone conversation between our president and the chancellor indicates that efforts in this direction will continue.” Sharing the information that Austrian National Assembly President Wolfgang Sobotka will visit Turkey at the end of this month, Ceyhun expressed that they hope the official visit to be held at this level after many years will have a positive reflection on relations. “Right after this visit, our president and Chancellor Nehammer will meet on the margins of the NATO Leaders’ Summit to be held in Madrid. I guess it will be a very critical meeting. We may experience developments that will pave the way for cooperation between us,” he said.

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