World Bulletin / News Desk
Austria’s new foreign minister has called for a “new beginning” in relations with Turkey after months of tensions between Ankara and Vienna.
“I would like to strengthen dialogue, without dialogue nothing will work,” Karin Kneissl told Austrian daily Kurier on Thursday.
The former diplomat, who became the foreign minister of Austria’s new conservative-far right coalition government last month, is scheduled to visit Turkey on Jan. 25.
Kneissl said she recently had a positive phone call with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and was looking forward to visiting Turkey.
“I think that a new beginning would be possible,” she said, and expressed the hope that both countries would find ways to normalize their relations.
Austria is home to around 270,000 Turkish immigrants.
Ties between the two countries became sour last year, due to restrictions imposed by Austrian authorities on Turkish politicians who wanted to campaign in the country ahead of a key referendum in Turkey.
Ankara had also sharply criticized Austrian government for illiberal integration policies, its populistic rhetoric and failure to take a strong stance against growing racism and Islamophobia.
Despite her optimism about future ties between Austria and Turkey, Kneissl spoke skeptically about Turkey’s EU membership bid.
“The coalition agreement has a very clear position on this, and I am also backing this position,” she told Austrian daily Kurier.
Austria’s conservative-far right government strongly opposes full EU membership for Turkey, and in the coalition agreement the parties called for halting Ankara’s EU membership negotiations and seeking alternative models of cooperation between the EU and Turkey.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), is holding key ministerial posts in the government, including the defense and interior.
Kneissl, a former diplomat and Middle East expert, was not a member of FPO, but she was suggested by the far-right party for this position.
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