ISTANBUL (Reuters)—Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called Austria the “capital of radical racism” on Friday after Chancellor Christian Kern suggested ending European Union accession talks with Ankara.
In an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber, Cavusoglu said Kern’s comments, spurred in part by a crackdown on suspected perpetrators of a failed coup last month, were “ugly” and that he rejected them all.
“The Austrian chancellor should first take a look at his own country. One of the trends that is an enemy of human rights and values is racism and today Austria is the capital of radical racism,” he said.
Kern said on Wednesday he would start a discussion among European heads of government to quit talks with Turkey citing democratic and economic deficits.
Talks have made only slow progress since they began in 2005, with only one of 35 “chapters” concluded.
Cavusoglu’s comments drew immediate reaction from Vienna. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on Ankara to moderate its words and actions.
Kern’s Social Democrats have come under pressure from both their Conservative coalition partners and the far right Freedom Party, which has in a recent opinion poll attracted 35 percent of votes on an anti-immigrant platform, critical of Islam.
European leaders have voiced concern over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected dissidents after a failed coup attempt last month, identifying his idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey as a red line barring EU accession.
Tensions between the two countries had been on the rise since last month. Austria had summoned Turkey’s ambassador on July 21 to explain Ankara’s links to demonstrations in the country in support of Erdogan.
Turkey has so far lived up to its side of the landmark deal with Brussels to stop illegal migration to Europe via its shores, in return for financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the bloc and accelerated talks on membership.
But Ankara has complained Europe is not living up to its side of the accord, a stance reiterated by Cavusoglu on Friday.
“If there is an agreement, either both sides would implement this or both would put it aside. There is no step back from this,” he said.