ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Thursday slammed a group of Western countries which temporarily closed down their consulates in Istanbul over security concerns, accusing them of waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkey’s tourism.
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, meanwhile, issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that the consulate closures and travel warnings were part of a Western plot to harm 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 50.5 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 the minister, who is known for his anti-Western rhetoric.
Soylu 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, six people were killed and several others were wounded in a bombing on Istanbul's bustling Istiklal Avenue in the heart of the city. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish militants. Several consulates are located near Istiklal.