02:31 GMT +319 August 2019
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    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for sessions on the second day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland. (File)

    Turkey Wants to Sideline One of NATO's Key Partners

    © AP Photo / Alik Keplicz
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    The North Atlantic Alliance has braced for a tough summit scheduled to be held on May 24-25 in Brussels, Belgium, at a time when the US-led military bloc is plagued with internal divisions revolving around Turkey's relations with several other member states and partner nations, most notably Austria.

    "Ankara is determined to block any cooperation between Austria and the alliance in response to Vienna's calls to suspend talks on Turkey's accession to the EU," RIA Novosti political observer Vladimir Ardaev asserted. "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to use his veto power to exclude Austria from all NATO's partnership initiatives and prevent Austrian service personnel from taking part in joint drills with NATO."

    Tensions between Turkey and Austria have been escalating for months. Last year, Austrian officials were among some of the most vocal critics of Erdogan's approach to suppressing an unsuccessful coup attempt and ensuing purges.

    The bilateral relationship took another major hit when Erdogan announced a referendum aimed at granting sweeping new powers to then largely ceremonial presidency. Prior to the vote, Austria along Germany and the Netherlands blocked several campaign events meant to rally support among Turkish nationals living in Europe for Erdogan's cause.  

    After the referendum, Austrian officials said that Turkey's EU membership was out of the question. 

    "We must be honest about the relationship between the EU and Turkey," Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said in April. "We need to end the EU entry negotiations and instead work to establish a neighborhood agreement."

    Austria's stance prompted Turkey to launch a counteroffensive, Ardaev said.

    Ankara's new approach "could be described as follows: you have blocked our path toward the EU membership and we will isolate you from NATO," he explained.

    It might not seem as much, but consider this: tensions between Turkey and Austria could have major implications for NATO's mission in the Balkans. More than 400 Austrian troops take part in the bloc's peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. According to Ardaev, Austria's military presence in Kosovo is the largest.

    "It remains unclear how Austria could continue taking part in the mission if it is prevented from participating in joint military exercises with the North Atlantic Alliance," he added.

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