Ankara, Vienna turn new page in ties, Turkish envoy says

Ankara, Vienna turn new page in ties, Turkish envoy says

Turkey's ambassador to Austria said Ankara and Vienna turned "a new page" in relations when their foreign ministers met in Istanbul in January.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl met on Jan. 25 after months of tension between the two countries, and Çavuşoğlu is expected to pay a visit to his Austrian counterpart in Vienna in the near future.

"We now prefer to talk directly with each other rather than talking to others," Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarıkçı told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview. "Never in history have we rejected a friendly hand offered to us."

Ties between the two countries soured in 2016 due to Austrian restrictions on Turkish politicians who wanted to campaign in the country ahead of a key referendum in Turkey. The campaign targeted Turkish nationals living in Austria. Ankara has also sharply criticized Vienna for what it considers illiberal integration policies as well as its populist rhetoric and failure to take a strong stance against growing racism and Islamophobia.

In the January meeting, Çarıkçı said a very important economic decision was made: "The Joint Economy Commission mechanism between the two countries will be revived." "It's been seven years since this was last held in 2011 in Vienna. There's ongoing work in this area that will benefit both sides," Çarıkçı said.

Despite recent political bumps, Çarıkçı said economic ties have continued to develop, bringing the bilateral trade volume to some 2.6 billion euros. "Austria is one of the largest foreign investors in Turkey," he said, adding, "Austrian investors are well acquainted with the Turkish market, and investments continued after the July 2016 failed coup attempt."

Çarıkçı said last year Turkey saw 306 million euros in investment from Austria. "And a new deal for 400 million euros was signed." "This shows that Austrian investors know the Turkish market, and trust it," he added.

Known for his staunch opposition to Turkey, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in late December the EU should end membership negotiations with Ankara, saying the country has "no place in Europe."

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