VIENNA – Burdening already strained bilateral relations, Austria on Monday denied a Turkish government minister's request to enter the country to mark the anniversary of the failed presidential coup in Turkey — a move Ankara described as anti-democratic.
Austria's Foreign Ministry said Turkish Economics Minister Nihat Zeybekci is being denied entry because the government believes his sole purpose is to appear publicly in front of his countrymen, which could threaten "public order and security in Austria."
Turkey criticized the decision. A foreign ministry statement said obstruction of Zeybekci "to participate in the commemoration of people martyred or injured while trying to protect democracy in the face of the treacherous coup attempt, proves that Austria is not sincere in its approach to defending democratic values."
Austria's foreign ministry said that Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz continues to condemn both the attempted coup on July 15 and the "massive wave of detentions" and the clampdown on freedom of opinion and the media that followed, adding Zeybekci is welcome should he want to come on official bilateral visit.
Austria is among the strongest critics in the European Union of Turkey's human rights record and was the first to call for the end of talks with Ankara on Turkish EU membership. Kurz, who has good chances of becoming Austria's next chancellor in October general elections, has been particularly hard on Turkey.