Turkish Foreign Minster Mevlut Cavusoglu accuses Austria of radical racism in a row over EU membership talks. He hit back at Chancellor Christian Kern's comments that the accession plan was "nothing more than fiction."
In an interview Friday with the pro-government TGRT Haber news channel, Foreign Minster Mevlut Cavusoglu responded to claims that Turkey was unfit to join the European Union in the aftermath of the July 15 attempted coup.
"Today Austria is the capital of radical racism," he said, referring to what he said were "ugly" remarks by Chancellor Christian Kern.
Cavusoglu said "racism is an enemy of human rights and humanitarian values, and the Austrian chancellor should first look at his own country." He rejected all of Kern's criticisms of Turkey, which included a claim that Ankara's democratic standards were "far from sufficient to justify its accession".
"What's even worse is that they call our people, the Turkish people who live in Austria, radical," Cavusoglu said.
Kern had given an interview to Austria's "Die Presse" newspaper on Thursday, in which he described the EU membership negotiations with Turkey as "currently nothing more than fiction."
He said he would start a discussion among other EU leaders to end talks, citing Turkey's democratic and economic deficits.
As the bitter spat escalated, Cavusoglu's Austrian counterpart later took to Twitter, urging Turkey to "moderate its choice of words and actions at home!"
Turkey has been a candidate to join the EU since 1999, but progress has been slow. Only one of the 35 negotiation "chapters" has been concluded. The Ankara government has already faced much criticism over what Brussels says is a roll-back of democratic freedoms.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained and thousands more have been dismissed following the attempted coup. Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that he may reintroduce the death penalty following the failed putsch.
On Friday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier repeated his warning that the return of capital punishment "would not be in line with EU values."
Steinmeier, along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also rejected Vienna's call to end talks over Turkish accession. Juncker told German broadcaster "ARD", it would be a "serious foreign policy mistake".
Tensions also remain between Turkey and the EU over a migrant deal, where Turkey has agreed to accept the return of migrants from EU soil in return for financial aid. The Ankara government has accused Brussels of failing to deliver a promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in return.
mm/kl (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)