Bilateral relations between Turkey and Austria are improving and previously damaged ties have mostly been restored, Turkey's ambassador to the country said Tuesday.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Mehmet Ferden Çarıkçı said that the stalled relations have improved after security, culture and consular affair negotiations resumed after a four-year hiatus.
Ties between Ankara and Vienna soured in 2016 after Austria restricted Turkish politicians from campaigning in the country ahead of a key referendum in Turkey. The campaign targeted Turkish nationals living in Austria. Ankara has also 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.
Underlining the importance of the high-level meetings between the two countries, the Turkish envoy said the meeting between Turkish and Austrian presidents on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in New York played an important role in the process.
"No such meetings were held in the five years prior. The dialogue was held at the highest level of the two countries," Çarıkçı said.
He added that during his tenure in Austria he has exerted a lot of effort to use public diplomacy to correct the misrepresentation of Turkey, which mainly stems from a lack of knowledge or prejudices.
The ambassador said that they with the Yunus Emre Institute, they held cultural events to showcase and promote Turkish culture in Austria. He added that both countries were planning to announce a culture year soon.
Touching on the economic ties between the two countries, Çarıkçı said, "Austria is the third biggest foreign investor in Turkey. In the first nine months of 2018, it was second with 418 million in investments."
He added that Austrian investors who know the Turkish market have continued to invest in the country regardless of the political disagreements. He underlined that there were also positive developments in the field of tourism.
"Turkey, after Spain, is the second most preferred destination for Austrian tourists," he said.
Welcoming the positive developments in economic ties, Çarıkçı said that more permanent steps will be taken in order to enhance bilateral relations. Çarıkçı also said that Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan will visit Austria next month upon the invitation from her counterpart Margarete Schramböck.