Vienna should not turn its back on Ankara, Austrian lawmaker says

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ANKARA
Published 24.01.2019 00:03

Austria needs to seek ways of boosting bilateral ties with Turkey through a fair and equal level of dialogue, Martha Bissman, an independent member of the Austrian Parliament said Wednesday, stressing that Austria should not turn its back on Turkey.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Bissman stated that "We should not turn our back to an important ally like Turkey due to various reasons," pointing to around 250,000 Turkish-origin people living in Austria. She added that "A fair and equal level of dialogue should be established to improve bilateral relations."

Underlining that Turkey hosts around 5 million refugees from Syria and neighboring countries, Bissman said that Turkey "has a position of stability for the region and a safe castle for Europe."

The ties between Ankara and Vienna soured in 2017 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. However, the two countries have recently been enhancing efforts to normalize bilateral ties.

Commenting on Turkey's EU bid, Bissman stressed that "I think negotiations with Turkey should restart... Such [a] negotiation processes could last for a long time but it should be handled with patience, good diplomacy and sensitivity."

In relation to the recent citizenship debates in Austria aimed at Turkish origin or people with foreign backgrounds, Bissman said "There are actually many Austrians who get along with Turkish neighbors and have quite good relations. Unfortunately, some part of the community is affected by political manipulations and cannot properly accept those people, who have been living here for 40 years and hold Austrian citizenship."

An investigation was launched in November into hundreds of Austrians of Turkish descent on suspicion of illegally holding dual citizenship as part of a campaign orchestrated by the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).

Criticizing the government's current policies, Bissman said "The government is deliberately polarizing society. It does not only apply to the Turks, but also other minorities and those who think differently."

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