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Turkey summons German envoy over consulate closure

February 3, 2023

Several European countries, including Germany, temporarily shut their consulates in Istanbul this week, citing security concerns. Turkey says they are waging "psychological warfare."

The German Consulate building in Istanbul
Germany shut its consulate in Turkey's biggest city because of security concernsImage: Lars Halbauer/picture-alliance/dpa

The Turkish government on Friday issued a strong reproach to foreign diplomatic missions that issued terrorist threat warnings after Quran burnings at protests abroad over Ankara's policy towards NATO expansion.

"If they want to create the image that Turkey is unstable and that there is a danger of terrorism, then that is incompatible with friendship and partnership," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after summoning Germany's ambassador — the ninth envoy to receive a summons this week.
On Thursday, Turkey summoned several ambassadors following the temporary closure of a number of European consulates in Istanbul.

According to a diplomatic source cited by the AFP news agency, envoys from Germany, Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States were called to attend a meeting at the Foreign Ministry.

Germany shut its Istanbul consulate on Wednesday, citing a heightened risk of terror attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries. At least six other countries took the same step as a precaution.

The US consulate remains open, as the complex is not in Istanbul's city center and is therefore considered to be a less vulnerable target. Washington has, however, joined a number of other governments in issuing travel warnings advising citizens to be vigilant and avoid tourist hotspots.

Why are there security concerns?

Tensions between Turkey and Western countries have been rising over Ankara's refusal to approve Sweden and Finland's NATO membership bids.

Recent protests in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, at which far-right activists burned or desecrated copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, have only strained ties further.

The actions have infuriated Muslims in Turkey and other parts of the world.

Norwegian police said Thursday they had canceled a planned anti-Islam protest in Oslo, saying security could not be ensured. The group behind the protest had reportedly planned to burn the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy.

The German Foreign Ministry on Friday confirmed that Berlin's ambassador to Turkey had been summoned for talks after Germany closed its consulate.

The ambassador was summoned together with counterparts from several other countries, a ministry spokesperson said.

Police stand guard outside the Turkish consulate in Stockholm
Police stand guard at the Turkish consulate in Stockholm where a far-right politician burned a copy of the QuranImage: Hakan Akgun/Demiroren Visual Media/ABACA/picture alliance

Turkey alleges 'psychological warfare'

Turkish officials have reacted angrily to the Quran burnings and travel warnings, and the government on Friday issued a strong rebuke over the closure of the foreign diplomatic missions.

Speaking Thursday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu called the measures an attempt to meddle in Turkey's election campaign ahead of presidential and parliamentary votes on May 14.

"They are waging psychological war against Turkey," Soylu told Turkey's NTV news channel. "They are trying to destabilize Turkey."

Soylu, who is known for his anti-Western rhetoric, said the travel alerts and consulate closures were part of a plot to prevent Turkey's tourism sector from rebounding after the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the chief spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party said Turkey was a safe country and that the security alerts from the West were "irresponsible."

"Some embassies and consulates are making statements to raise concerns about our country's security conditions," spokesman Omer Celik tweeted. "This type of irresponsible behavior is unacceptable."

In apparent retaliation for the security alerts from Western countries, Turkey issued its own warnings over the weekend. It told its citizens there was a risk of "possible Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks" in the US and Europe.

Turkey's delicate balancing act between Ukraine, Russia

nm, rc/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)