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Turkish minister says he plans to visit Austria despite tensions
July 12, 2017 / 8:00 AM / a month ago

Turkish minister says he plans to visit Austria despite tensions

Turkey's Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci makes a speech in Cologne, Germany, March 5, 2017.Wolfgang Rattay

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said on Wednesday he would visit Austria soon, despite having being barred this week from attending an event in Austria to mark the anniversary of last year's failed coup in Turkey.

"We are going to have a bilateral meeting with the Austrian economy ministry. I think this meeting will take place this month," he told reporters.

Austria's ministry of economics said it had received no official request from Turkey, and had learnt about Zeybekci's plan only via the media.

"But, of course, we are generally interested in bilateral talks," a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Alpine republic said on Monday Zeybekci could not visit Vienna to attend a gathering of Turks in Austria to mark the crushing of the coup attempt.

Austria has been one of the most vocal critics in the European Union of Turkey's security crackdown since the failed coup last July, and has said it will not allow the Turkish government to exert political influence on its territory.

Since the coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 people pending trial and suspended or dismissed some 150,000 over alleged links with the exiled Muslim cleric Ankara blames for the coup.

Turkey says the crackdown is necessary due to the security threats it faces. It said the block on its economy minister entering the country for the anniversary showed Vienna was not sincere in protecting democratic values.

"If there is a new request we will evaluate it again," a spokesman for Austria's foreign ministry said on Wednesday of Zeybekci's comments.

He added that while bilateral meetings were always possible, Vienna would not support major events "that bring foreign conflicts to Austria".

Zeybekci said Austria was an "important economic partner for Turkey".

"The two countries should always be involved in a dialogue," the minister added.

The Turkish ambassador returned to Austria only days ago, after being recalled to Ankara nearly a year ago. His return had been seen as a sign of easing in the relations between the two countries.

Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu in Ankara and Kirsti Knolle in Frankfurt; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Roche

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