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Turkey Blocks Cooperation With NATO Partners As EU Dispute Escalates

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey has blocked some military training and other work with NATO "partner countries" in an apparent escalation of a diplomatic dispute with EU states, officials and sources said on March 15.

Sources said Turkey had blocked NATO's 2017 rolling program of cooperation with non-EU countries, including political events, civilian projects and military training. Turkey was not immediately available to comment.

Turkey is angry at Germany and the Netherlands for preventing it from holding political rallies on their territories to promote an April 16 referendum granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

Erdogan has compared Germany and the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis. But as fellow NATO members, Turkey is unable to block cooperation with the two countries.

An unnamed NATO official said Turkey's action was apparently aimed at Austria, which is not a member of the alliance but is a partner country. Turkish referendum rallies have also been canceled in Austria.

Last year, Austria called for the European Union to end accession talks with Turkey after Ankara jailed tens of thousands of people following a failed coup attempt.

Austria's Defense Ministry confirmed the Turkish block. A spokesman said there was no immediate effect on ongoing missions but that the decision could cause problems in the longer term "for example, for the preparation of missions in Kosovo, because there are joint training programs."

Turkey's action potentially affects all 22 NATO partner states, including Sweden and Georgia, some of which contribute troops to NATO missions in places such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa