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Turkey, Austria pledge to re-establish ties despite disagreements

 

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl speaks during a press conference with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu (not seen) in Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 25, 2018. The foreign ministers of Turkey and Austria on Thursday pledged to rebuild ties despite disagreements on Turkey's accession process to the European Union. (Xinhua/He Canling)
 
ISTANBUL, Jan. 25 -- The foreign ministers of Turkey and Austria on Thursday pledged to rebuild ties despite disagreements on Turkey's accession process to the European Union.
 
"Today we have discussed what we can do to open a new page in relations," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at a joint press conference with his visiting Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl in Istanbul.
 
The two countries' relations have been damaged as Austria took a continuous opposition towards Turkey's accession process to the EU.
 
"We cannot ask or force Austria to change their thoughts or position about Turkey's EU membership bid," Cavusoglu said, adding that both parties should focus on building a "positive agenda."
 
But the Turkish minister urged the EU to take decision, saying "we don't want that the EU keeps us waiting at the door anymore, we have been standing there for 60 years."
 
Turkey applies for associate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959. Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership following the Helsinki European Council of December 1999. Accession negotiations started in October 2005.
 
But Ankara's tie with the EU have strained in due course over issues including democracy and human rights, in particular over the crackdown that followed the 2016 coup attempt.
 
Kneissl said the two ministers discussed all the critical and troubled issues but mainly concerned with improving the atmosphere in the relationships.
 
She added that the talks exceeded her expectations even though the differences remain in several issues.
 
Ties between the two countries have also soured even further when Austrian authorities restricted Turkish politicians from campaigning in the country ahead of a referendum in Turkey in 2017. The Turkish community in Austria is composed of nearly 200,000 people of who half are Austrian citizens.

Source: Xinhua