March 2. 2024. 3:41

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Erdogan says Western embassies will ‘pay’ for temporary closures

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkey last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Islamic State suspects on Sunday (5 February).

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

The European countries have denounced the incidents but some say they cannot prevent them because of free speech rules.

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 Turkey, particularly against diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship. Germany, France and the Netherlands were among countries that temporarily closed diplomatic missions in Turkey for security reasons this week. Some cited central Istanbul areas of high concern but did not provide the source of the information.

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

Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticise their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.

“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdoğan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.

Judging from remarks tonight, it appears #Turkey’s #Erdogan is bent on to escalate diplomatic feud with his western allies ahead of election.

He may be pondering whether to expel envoys of the US, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, France & Italy.

— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) February 5, 2023

Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkey, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Turkey suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Koran was burned.

Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw condemnation from Turkey

Protests in Stockholm on 21 January against Turkey and NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, heightened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs Ankara’s backing to gain entry to the military alliance.

Erdoğan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.

‘No concrete threats’

Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Islamic State suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.

Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship”.

While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu repeated on Saturday Turkey’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.

Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.