Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Turkey blocks North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partnerships in row with Austria

Turkey blocks North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partnerships in row with Austria

Turkey is vetoing Nato's co-operation with Austria, blocking the alliance's partnership activities with 41 countries, the BBC understands.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Austria's participation was blocked in a number of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation programs, including those focusing on military training.

In response, Turkey has vetoed cooperation with Austria, which is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partner state, but officially neutral and not a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, despite participating in joint operations as borne out by its current deployment of 400 troops in Kosovo.

Austria condemned the Turkish veto, calling it "irresponsible".

A number of Austrian politicians, including Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen, have made a number of statements criticizing such issues as a crackdown on alleged supporters of the thwarted 2016 coup and the referendum on constitutional amendments in Turkey that broadens presidential powers, saying that they move Ankara away from European Union values and accession to the bloc. The veto was affecting all the Western alliance's partnership activities, which include several ex-Soviet states.A Nato meeting is planned for Thursday, at the 28-nation alliance's Brussels headquarters.A Nato official said the main topics would be the fight against terrorism, and fairer burden-sharing.US President Donald Trump has criticised Nato members who fail to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence.

But on Monday the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations agreed to change the system so that cooperation "will be planned on an individual basis, rather than collectively", said a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official who asked not to be identified.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official said the main topics would be the fight against terrorism, and fairer burden-sharing. Besides the U.S. and United Kingdom only Poland, Greece and Estonia now meet that target. "I strongly condemn Turkey's course of action in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

Austria on Tuesday accused Turkey of "endangering the security interests of Europe" and branded its action as "irresponsible".

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Turkey, with the second-biggest military in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, had vetoed all cooperation with neutral Austria after Vienna called for the European Union to halt membership talks with Ankara.

"We greatly appreciate its valuable contributions to our shared security".

"We hope the bilateral issues between Austria and Turkey will be solved as quickly as possible", the official told AFP.

German news website Die Welt says North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is now considering reforming those partnerships, so that each nation signs an individual agreement with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that could get around the Austria deadlock.

"This will substantially reduce the risk of blockages to cooperation with partners across the board", he said.

Mr Erdogan has not only lashed out at Austria.

Ankara's ongoing diplomatic row with Germany, which recently granted asylum to some Turkish nationals suspected of links to last year's coup attempt, resulted in Berlin announcing this month that it is seeking a potential replacement to Turkey's Incirlik airbase.

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