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Erdogan 'not welcome' to campaign on referendum in Austria

Austrian FM says allowing the Turkish president to campaign would harm integration for the country's Turkish community
Erdogan supporters in Germany wave a flag reading 'Learning from Erdogan means learning to win' during a rally in Oberhausen earlier this month (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "not welcome" to hold campaign events in Austria ahead of April's referendum on strengthening his powers, the foreign minister in Vienna said on Monday.

Sebastian Kurz said that Erdogan campaigning over the controversial referendum would "increase friction" in Austria and "hinder the integration" of the country's 360,000-strong Turkish origin minority, which includes 117,000 Turkish citizens.

"Campaign events are not welcome. Of course the Turkish president, like other senior politicians, can make bilateral visits to Europe and Austria for talks with top officials," said Kurz.

"But we clearly reject bringing the Turkish campaign and polarisation to Austria," Kurz was quoted as saying in a foreign ministry statement.

The ministry said Erdogan's previous visits to Austria and also Germany had created "tensions" between his supporters and Turks of Kurdish origin, which have increased since July's attempted coup.

It quoted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who himself hold a rally in the German city of Oberhausen on 18 February, as saying that Erdogan planned to campaign in European Union countries.

The 16 April vote will see Turks vote on whether to change the current parliamentary system into an executive presidency.

Erdogan's government says that this will enhance political stability.

But opponents fear that the touted new system - which would discard the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey's history - would cement one-man rule under Erdogan, theoretically allowing him to remain in power until 2034.

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