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Europe

Turkish ambassador in Vienna sparks diplomatic row

Diplomatic tensions have flared up between Austria and Turkey after the Turkish ambassador in Vienna publically criticized Austria's stance towards integrating Muslims. The Austrian chancellor is said to be "outraged."

Muslims in Vienna

The Turkish community in Austria numbers 180,000

Austria has protested to Turkey after the Turkish ambassador suggested Turks living in Austria were treated "like a virus" and were denied the chance to integrate.

Ambassdor Kadri Ecved Tezcan also told Die Presse daily newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday that Austrian politicians were not doing enough to counter the rise of the far-right movement.

The row erupted in the wake of elections in the Austrian capital Vienna in October, when the far-right Freedom Party won 26 percent of the vote on a xenophobic and anti-Muslim platform.

Werner Faymann

The Austrian chancellor called the remarks 'unprofessional'

The remarks have sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. Austria's foreign ministry summoned Tezcan over his comments, whilst the foreign minister Michael Spindelegger called his Turkish counterpart to complain about Tezcan's remarks.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a statement that he was outraged by Tezcan's "unacceptable and unprofessional" comments.

Integration issues

Tezcan claimed in the interview that Austrians were only interested in other cultures when they went on holiday. He said they should do more to integrate the Muslim community in Austria, which is largely made up of Turks.

"Turkish people… just don't want to be treated like a virus," Tezcan told Die Presse. "Society should integrate them and profit from them."

In the interview, Tezcan said it was "incredible" that the Austrian Interior Ministry was responsible for integration, and that they should concentrate on visas and security.

He also criticized the hard-line immigration policies of interior minister, Maria Fekter, saying she was "in the wrong party" because she did not represent the values of her center-right party.

"Unacceptable" for a diplomat

Turkey-EU flag

Austria is skeptical about Turkey joining the EU

A spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry said they did not think that Tezcan represented Ankara's views.

"[Tezcan] crossed many red lines," said spokesman Alexander Schallenberg. "His remarks were unacceptable."

Schallenberg said Austria wanted to keep up good bilateral relations with Turkey.

The Turkish community numbers some 180,000 people in Austria. It is the third largest migrant community after Serbs and Germans.

Austria is one of several EU countries, including Germany, which are skeptical about the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union.

Author: Joanna Impey (AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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