President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has downplayed the allegations that Germany, the UK and the US have been eavesdropping on Turkey and said that such eavesdropping is relatively normal, adding that Turkish officials will shortly discuss the subject with the leaders of these countries.
Before paying his first official visit as president to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Erdoğan told journalists at the airport on Monday: “I’ll tell you, there is no such thing, for a country with a strong intelligence organization, of not eavesdropping on various countries in the world. All of them do it somehow.”
Erdoğan also said that what is important is who is doing what and using which methods and how they disclose this intelligence. Recalling that this week he will be seeing many of the world leaders during a NATO summit in Wales and later in the month the United Nations summit in New York, Erdoğan stressed that he will raise these issues.
Erdoğan added that he thinks such allegations threatening world peace should be kept under control, but chose not to elaborate further.
On Sunday, German magazine Der Spiegel published a lengthy report claiming that Germany is not the only Western country whose intelligence agency has spied on Turkey, according to documents from the archive of US whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Der Spiegel report claimed that the US and the UK have also spied on Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told Turkish press on Monday that the outgoing chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Ankara, Jess Bailey, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry early on Monday morning to discuss the allegations of eavesdropping on Turkey.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç issued a statement saying that the relevant Turkish authorities are looking into the allegations that were published in the German press about the intelligence activities of the US government on Turkey. “If the allegations are true, clearly such activities cannot be accepted in any way between two friends, or indeed any countries,” said Bilgiç.
He also said that Turkey expects the US to investigate these allegations and if they are true, then end the activities directly targeting Turkey’s state institutions and foreign missions. Bilgiç said that Turkey’s expectation of receiving a satisfactory explanation on these allegations had been relayed to Bailey on Monday at the Foreign Ministry.
The UK is also alleged to have been been eavesdropping on Turkey, especially on the energy sector, according to Der Spiegel’s article.
However, British Ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore told journalists on Monday: “We have a very simple policy in the UK which we have had many decades. And that is that on any intelligence matter, any question relating to intelligence matters, we don’t comment. We have a neither-confirm-nor-deny policy.”
Briefing a group of journalists before this week’s NATO summit in Wales, Moore said: “I hope you would understand that I will not be the first British ambassador in the world in the last 50 years to breech that principle.”
When asked if he has had discussions with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials concerning the eavesdropping allegations, Moore said, “I haven’t had a meeting up to this point.”
ARABAŞLIK: Parliamentary question by CHP
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Erdal Aksünger submitted a parliamentary question to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Monday asking whether the allegations are true or not.
“Is Turkey in such a vulnerable position that anyone can eavesdrop on the country, including its foreign missions? What is the reason for this weakness? Is there a study about which intelligence organizations are active in Turkey and how they can be stopped? If there is such a study, what are the results?” he asked in the parliamentary question.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Ankara deputy Salih Kapusuz claimed on Monday that the German press is trying to portray Turkey as a “helpless” country. In a statement issued on Monday he also claimed that a “parallel gang” is trying to create the perception that it is not them who are eavesdropping on Turkish officials but international powers.
The “parallel state” or “parallel structure” are phrases often used by the AK Party government and its supporters to refer to the faith-based Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. “If the allegations are true, have these international powers used the parallel gang as their subcontractor?” asked Kapusuz. He also claimed that most of the news stories about the eavesdropping issue appear in the “parallel media” in order to put the government in a difficult position and acquit people who are being accused of eavesdropping on Turkish officials. If the allegation is true that the UK mainly eavesdropped on Turkey with regard to the energy sector, Kapusuz said, this proves that Turkey turning into an energy hub bothers certain powers in the world.
Kapusuz also mentioned stories suggesting that Turkey is selling gas belonging to the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the group’s behalf and claimed that these baseless allegations are part of an effort to damage Turkey’s reputation.