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Turkiye summons nine Western envoys over security alerts

February 3, 2023 at 9:00 am

Supporters of Free Cause Party (Huda Par) and Quranic Generation Platform (Kuran Nesli Platformu) stage a protest against the burning of the Quran in Sweden was held outside the Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul on Sunday, Turkiye on January 22, 2023. [Elif Öztürk Özgöncü – Anadolu Agency]

Turkiye summoned ambassadors of nine Western countries, including the United States and Sweden, on Thursday to criticise their decision to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts following Quran-burning incidents in Europe, Reuters reported.

The envoys of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Britain were also summoned, according to Foreign Ministry sources in Ankara.

Over the last two weeks, far-right activists burned copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, acts that prompted Turkiye to halt negotiations meant to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Turkish Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, accused the embassies of waging “a new psychological war” against Turkiye on the same day Ankara had set a target of attracting 60 million tourists annually.

Over the last week, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States were among those issuing warnings to their citizens of an increased risk of attacks in Turkiye, particularly against diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship.

READ: Norway withdraws permission for Quran burning after Turkiye’s warning

Germany, France and the Netherlands were among countries that temporarily closed diplomatic missions in Turkiye for security reasons this week. Some cited central Istanbul areas of high concern, but did not provide the source of the information.

Berlin has also warned the public of a “threat” and said its Consulate-General in Istanbul would remain closed on Friday. Berlin said that there is “accurate and concrete” information about the existence of a threat and referred, in particular, to the Beyoglu district in Istanbul, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square, in addition to the Levent neighbourhood, which includes many consulates. Berlin did not name any groups behind the threat.

“Such simultaneous activities do not constitute a proportional and commonsense approach and … only serve the covert agenda of terrorist organisations,” said a Foreign Ministry source, who asked not to be further identified.

Recently, the Danish-Swedish far-right politician, Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Quran in front of a mosque in Stockholm, and threatened to do so every week until Turkiye agreed to Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

All 30 NATO members must approve newcomers. Sweden and Finland applied for membership last year in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but ran into surprise resistance from Turkiye.

Since then, they have sought to win its backing, including agreeing to take a harder line domestically against those Turkiye says are members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, designated a terrorist group by Ankara and the European Union.