Nato hit by Turkish veto on Austria partnership: BBC News

Nato hit by Turkish veto on Austria partnership :- BBC News

Austrian troops near Rudare, northern Kosovo, 2011Image copyrightAFP Image caption Austrian troops serve with the Nato K-For mission in Kosovo (2011 photo)

(BBC News) — Turkey is vetoing Nato’s co-operation with Austria, blocking the alliance’s partnership activities with 41 countries, the BBC understands.

Turkey is in Nato, providing the most military muscle after the US, while Austria is not. But Austria co-operates closely with Nato, and has more than 400 troops serving in Kosovo.

Austria condemned the Turkish veto, calling it “irresponsible”.

Turkey is angry with Austria for trying to block its bid to join the EU.

A well-informed source told the BBC that heightened tensions between Turkey and Austria had essentially blocked Nato co-operation with the government in Vienna for the past year. 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. Besides the US and UK only Poland, Greece and Estonia currently meet that target.

Turkey ‘endangering security’

In a statement sent to the BBC, Austria’s Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil lambasted Turkey for its veto.

“I strongly condemn Turkey’s course of action in Nato. It is irresponsible behaviour against Austria and strengthens my position that Turkey is very far from being part of the EU,” he said.

“In this, Turkey is endangering the security interests of Europe. The blockade has a long-term impact on the peace missions in the Western Balkans.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Austria for frosty relations with the EU, amid tensions over illegal immigration via Turkey and his huge crackdown on political opponents.

Nato reform plans

Austria is one of the main contributors to the Kosovo security mission.

A Nato official said the alliance was “not ending its co-operation with Austria”.

“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,” he told the BBC.

Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan Isaf mission, 2007Image copyrightAFP
Image captionTurkish soldiers – like these in Afghanistan – play a key role in Nato operations

Nato is planning to reform its partnership activities – such as training and de-mining – so that agreements are signed with partner countries individually, rather than on a collective basis.

The Nato official said reform would “substantially reduce the risk of blockages to co-operation with [Non-Nato] partners across the board.”

Mr Erdogan has not only lashed out at Austria. His anger at Germany has prompted Berlin to reconsider its air force deployment at Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.

He was enraged when Austria, Germany and the Netherlands barred Turkish ministers from campaigning on their soil in the run-up to last month’s referendum, in which he narrowly won a mandate for sweeping new powers.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has spoken out against President Erdogan’s purge of public servants suspected of backing last July’s failed coup. He said the EU should respond by halting talks on Turkey joining.