Aus­tria bars Turk­ish Econ­omy Min­is­ter Zey­bekci over rally plans

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

VI­ENNA: Aus­tria said yes­ter­day it had barred Turk­ish Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ni­hat Zey­bekci from en­ter­ing the coun­try to at­tend a rally mark­ing the an­niver­sary of last year’s failed coup at­tempt in Turkey. “He has been barred be­cause his visit was not planned as part of a bi­lat­eral ex­change, but was about his public ap­pear­ance at an event mark­ing the coup at­tempt,” for­eign min­istry spokesman Thomas Sch­noell said. Zey­bekci’s at­ten­dance at the “large event” would have rep­re­sented a “dan­ger for public or­der”, Sch­noell added.

The rally is sched­uled to take place in Vi­enna on Sun­day. It is be­ing or­gan­ised by the Aus­trian branch of the Union of European Turk­ish Democrats (UETD), a pro-Ankara group present in sev­eral European Union coun­tries. UETD spokesman Ra­mazan Ak­tas called Vi­enna’s move “un­demo­cratic”. It came three days af­ter the Dutch gov­ern­ment warned Turkey against send­ing its deputy premier, Tu­grul Turkes, to ad­dress a rally in the eastern Nether­lands this week to mark the abortive coup.

Ties be­tween Ankara and the EU have been strained over the crack­down that fol­lowed the July 15 2016 at­tempted coup against Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. Ear­lier this year, sev­eral mem­ber states in­clud­ing Aus­tria and Germany banned proAnkara ral­lies ahead of a con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­en­dum in April on grant­ing Er­do­gan sweep­ing pow­ers.

Turk­ish min­is­ters had been head­ing to Europe to whip up sup­port for a “yes” vote among mil­lions of Turkey’s vot­ers who live abroad. Some 360,000 peo­ple of Turk­ish ori­gin live in Aus­tria, in­clud­ing 11,700 Turk­ish cit­i­zens. Many are be­lieved to be proEr­do­gan sup­port­ers whose vote helped him win the ref­er­en­dum.

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