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Germany closes Istanbul consulate over 'risk of attack'

February 1, 2023

The German Consulate in Istanbul warned citizens to avoid central areas of Turkey's largest city and avoid crowds. Several European countries have warned of increased risk of attacks in the wake of Quran burnings.

The German Consulate building in Istanbul
Following similar moves by the UK and Sweden, the German Consulate in Istanbul temporarily closed its doors over a heightened risk of attacksImage: Lars Halbauer/picture-alliance/dpa

Germany temporarily closed its consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday, citing a heightened risk of attack in the Turkish city.

The move comes amid rising tensions after right-wing extremist and anti-Islam activists burned or destroyed Qurans in several European cities in recent weeks.

What did German officials say?

In posts on the consulate's social media channels, German officials announced the consulate would be closed on Wednesday and that all visa appointments had been canceled.

"Following recent cases in several European capitals where the Quran was publicly burned or destroyed, security agencies believe the risk of terrorist attacks in Istanbul has increased," officials said in a statement.

The statement advised German citizens to avoid Istanbul's central district of Beyoglu and the popular Taksim Square. German officials also advised citizens to avoid areas with "international crowds" and steer clear of busy public places in general.

The German Embassy in Ankara remained open on Wednesday. It was unclear whether the consulate in Istanbul would remain closed later this week.

Both the Swedish Embassy in Ankara and the country's consulate in Istanbul were also closed to visitors, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Stockholm told news agency dpa.

The British Consulate in Istanbul is also "currently not open to the public as a precaution," according to a UK government travel advisory.

Tensions between Turkey and Europe

The warnings of potential attacks come after right-wing extremists repeatedly destroyed the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith, in several European cities.

The actions have sparked outrage in Turkey, particularly after the right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan set fire to a Quran in front of a mosque in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The Danish-Swedish politician later repeated the act in Copenhagen. 

He threatened to continue until Turkey accepted Sweden's bid to join the NATO military alliance.

Similar protests where a Quran was desecrated and torn up in the Netherlands prompted Turkey to summon the Dutch ambassador.

Several countries — including Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United States — issued warnings last week of an increased risk of attacks in Turkey.

Turkey, in turn, also issued a travel alert for its nationals in Europe  — saying that the recent anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish acts show the "dangerous level of religious intolerance and hatred" on the continent. 

Both Sweden and Finland announced their intention to join NATO in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. All current members of the trans-Atlantic military alliance must unanimously agree on their membership bids, but Turkey and Hungary have not yet approved.

rs/nm (dpa)