Turkey slams West for security warnings 'harming' tourism
Turkey on Thursday slammed a group of Western countries that temporarily closed down their consulates in Istanbul over security concerns, accusing them of waging "psychological warfare" and attempting to wreck Turkey's tourism industry.
Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were among countries that shut down their consulates in the city of around 16 million people this week. The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries. The United States and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the consulate closures and travel warnings were part of a Western plot to prevent a rebound in Turkey's tourism sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
"On a day when we declared our aim of (attracting) 60 million tourists, at a time when 51.5 million tourists arrived and we obtained $46 billion in tourism revenue, they were on the verge of starting a new psychological warfare (against) Turkey," said Soylu, who is known for his anti-Western rhetoric.
The minister said 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.
Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry said Turkish authorities had detained a number of suspects following a warning from a "friendly country," but hadn't found any weapons, ammunition or sign of a planned act of violence.
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.
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.
In a related development, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Norway's ambassador to ask for a protest planned for Friday in the Scandinavian country to be prevented because there would be an "attack" on the Quran during the event, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported Thursday.
Norwegian newspaper VG said a group called Stop Islamization of Norway planned to burn the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Oslo on Friday.
The group's leader, Lars Thorsen, told VG that he planned to carry out his protest "in the context of Turkey's intolerance of Western values of freedom."
Recent demonstrations in Europe where activists desecrated Islam's holy book have infuriated Muslims in Turkey and elsewhere.
Anadolu said the Norwegian ambassador was told that the planned action would constitute a "hate crime" that should not be allowed.