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Joint Press Release on the Most Recent Contacts Between Foreign Ministers Mrs.Plassnik and Mr.Gül, February 9, 2006

On February 8, 2006 the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkey, Abdullah Gül and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, President of the Council of the European Union had an exchange of views as a continuation of their ongoing contacts on the tensions that have arisen following the cartoons incident. Both Ministers stressed that the freedom of expression is a fundamental right. At the same time, they agreed that due respect must be accorded to religious beliefs and convictions. Freedom of expression and respect for revered values do not contradict, but complement one another.

Ministers Gül and Plassnik underlined that acts of violence such as the recent attacks on European embassies and offices could not be condoned under any circumstances. The events of the last days had demonstrated that a lack of dialogue unfortunately exists between the Western and Islamic worlds. On both sides there was a risk of extremists exploiting this to the detriment of all. It was thus essential to avoid any further polarization. For this very reason both Ministers welcomed the recent joint statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary General of the OIC and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union as an important positive signal at the global level.

They expressed the hope that the forthcoming visit of Javier Solana to the OIC headquarters in Saudi Arabia would help to defuse existing tensions. Minister Plassnik voiced her appreciation of Turkey’s active role in promoting dialogue between Europe and the Muslim world, especially in the framework of the Alliance of Civilizations joint initiative launched under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General by the Prime Minsters of Turkey and Spain. She underlined Austria’s willingness to host one of the next High Level Group Meetings of the Alliance in Vienna. Minister Gül welcomed this proposal.

Minister Plassnik expressed her interest in a continued exchange on this important issue with Turkey, e.g. at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers’ Troika with Minister Gül in Vienna on March 8, 2006 and invited the Turkish Foreign Minister to introduce this subject at the working luncheon that will bring together the Foreign Ministers of the European Union, Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans in Salzburg on March 11, 2006.