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Turkey says blocking of some NATO projects only aimed at Austria

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Turkey’s withdrawal of some NATO cooperation with partner countries is only aimed at Austria, a spokeswoman for Ankara’s mission to the military alliance said on Thursday.

Diplomatic tensions between Austria and Turkey predate a current escalation with other European countries. A spokesman for Austria’s Defense Ministry said the blockade has been going on for months.

NATO officials told Reuters on Wednesday that Turkey’s blocking of 2017 projects - mostly military training ones - has not only affected Austria but also other countries that are not members of the alliance but cooperate with it.

“There have been some tensions with Austria and a resulting blockage. It is, however, only targeted at Austria, the other partners are not targeted at all,” said Fatma Pasaoglu, spokeswoman for Turkey’s mission to NATO in Brussels.

Austria led calls last year to stop European Union membership talks with Turkey after President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown following a botched coup.

Vienna also spoke out against pro-Erdogan rallies months before the more recent debate about events to promote yes-votes amongst Turkish voters in Europe in an April 16 referendum that could shore up Erdogan’s powers.

The moves infuriated Ankara, which withdrew its ambassador from Vienna in August.

The spat could also mean that Austrian officials encounter problems when accrediting for NATO buildings, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

Turkey’s blocking of projects at NATO is one part of an escalating war of words between Turkey and EU countries, especially Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Dominic Evans