ANKARA – Turkey for a second day on Friday railed against a group of Western countries that temporarily shut their consulates in Istanbul, accusing them of failing to share information on the security threat that led to the closures and of aiming to cause harm to Turkey.
This week, nine Western nations either closed down their consulates in Istanbul or issued travel warnings to citizens visiting Turkey, citing security threats. The measures angered Turkey, which on Thursday summoned the countries’ ambassadors in protest. Turkey’s interior minister accused the countries of waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkey’s tourism industry.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that the nine countries did not share information with Turkish authorities about the alleged security threat. His ministry has identified the nine countries as the United States, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain, Germany, Belgium, France and Italy.
“They tell us that they have concrete information that there is a threat. ... But where did it come from, where is the threat, who will carry it out? There is no information about that,” Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his Argentinian counterpart.
“We asked our Interior Ministry. They say there is no concrete sharing of information. ... We asked our intelligence agency. There is no concrete sharing of information.”
The minister also said Turkey suspects an “ulterior motive” behind the closures, including alleged intent to hurt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections that are likely to be held on May 14.
“If they are trying to create the image that Turkey is unstable and that there is a threat of terrorism, this does not fit friendship or the spirit of alliance, he said. “This is especially true before the elections. If they are trying to put the (ruling party) government, the Presidential government, in a difficult situation, our people know very well what is behind it. ... It won’t serve their purpose.”
The German Embassy this week cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries in announcing the closure of its consulate. The U.S. embassy cautioned its citizens about possible attacks against churches, synagogues and diplomatic missions as well as other places that Westerners frequent.
In November, a bombing on Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue, located in the heart of the city and near a number of foreign consulates, killed six people and wounded several others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish militants.
Radical Islamic groups and leftist militants have also carried out deadly attacks in Turkey the past.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Thursday that Turkey had conducted as many as 60 operations against the Islamic State group so far this year and detained 95 people. Last year, close to 2,000 IS suspects were detained in more than 1,000 operations against the group, he said.
Last weekend, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a travel warning for European countries due to anti-Turkish demonstrations and what it described as Islamophobia. The warning followed demonstrations the week before outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden, where an anti-Islam activist burned the Quran and pro-Kurdish groups protested against Turkey.