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Tensions rise between Austria, Turkey after violent Vienna rallies

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during the mukhtars (local town government heads) meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on March 16, 2016. / AFP / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Vienna – Repeated clashes between pro-Kurdish demonstrators and Turkish nationalists in Vienna led to a new diplomatic flare-up between Austria and Turkey on Monday, when the countries summoned each other’s ambassadors to their Foreign Ministries.

According to Austrian authorities, left-wing participants were attacked by people linked to the Grey Wolves, a militant right-wing Turkish group during several demonstrations last week.

Seven police officers who tried to keep the groups apart were injured.

Austria’s conservative Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said it was “completely unacceptable” that Turkish conflicts are being waged on Austrian territory.

“We and police will do everything to guarantee that people can assemble without having to fear that their assembly will be disrupted,” he told a press conference.

In addition to calling in the Turkish ambassador, the government in Vienna said it would convene a round table including Austria’s police, intelligence and integration authorities in the coming days.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry offered an opposite view on the events in Vienna.

The demonstrations were “organized by the PKK,” the ministry claimed, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a designated terrorist group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

“Allowing PKK propaganda through these rallies, turning a blind eye to the use of PKK’s symbols and targeting of Turkey are completely unacceptable,” it said in a statement.

Relations between the two countries have been tense, as conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has lobbied against Turkey’s accession into the EU and curbed Ankara’s influence on the large Turkish migrant community in Austria.


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