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POLITICS > Turkey demands 'satisfying' explanation from UK on claims of eavesdropping

LONDON/ ANKARA

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The British government eavesdropped on Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek during the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in London in 2009, according to daily Guardian. DHA photo

The British government eavesdropped on Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek during the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in London in 2009, according to daily Guardian. DHA photo

Turkey has asked for a “satisfying” explanation from Britain on claims that the U.K. eavesdropped on Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, amid growing pressure on U.S. and U.K. governments over leaked documents.

“If a news report claiming that the British government eavesdropped on Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek and his delegation during the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in London in 2009 proves to be true, this would be a scandal that would be obviously unacceptable, for Turkey,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday in a written statement. The claims reported by British daily The Guardian are “worrying,” it said, underlining that the British officials are expected to “present an official and satisfying statement” on the issue.

“As a matter of fact, required diplomatic initiatives have been taken,” the statement concluded, without elaborating on those initiatives. The British government eavesdropped on Şimşek and his delegation during the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting, according to the daily. The aim of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British spy agency responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the British government and armed forces, was to find out Ankara’s attitudes to financial regulation and reform, as well as Turkish “willingness [or not] to co-operate with the rest of the G-20 nations,” the report said. It also said the eavesdropping was done to give British officials the slight negotiating edge of knowing what the Turks were thinking about financial reform before they showed their hand.

Turkish Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ünal Çeviköz said that British authorities were expected to make an official and satisfactory statement. “Necessary initiatives have been taken in Ankara and London,” Çeviköz wrote in his Twitter account. Earlier in the day, Şimşek said the Foreign Ministry was looking into the issue. “Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking into the issue. We’ll issue a statement after that. If true, we strongly condemn it,” Şimşek wrote in his Twitter account.

British Embassy officials in Ankara told Hürriyet Daily News that none of the embassy staff were authorized to make any comment on intelligence matters. When asked whether a statement might be expected from London, the same officials said the release of such a statement was not likely since the British government’s prevalent tendency regarding intelligence matters is not to make any comments.

Details of the surveillance are said to be contained in documents obtained by Edward Snowden, the former CIA whistle-blower responsible for a string of disclosures about American intelligence operations. His explosive leaks of vast surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA) that trawl through telephone and Internet records have triggered widespread consternation, gaining him admirers but also critics who denounce him as a traitor.

NSA spied on Medvedev

Meanwhile, leaked documents revealed that U.S. spies had intercepted communications of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, during his visit to London and shared with high-ranking officials from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The document, leaked by Snowden, was drafted in August 2009, four months after the visit by Medvedev, who joined other world leaders in London, including U.S. President Barack Obama, for the event hosted by the British prime minister, Gordon Brown. Medvedev arrived in London on April 1 and the NSA intercepted communications from his delegation the same day, according to the NSA paper, entitled, “Russian Leadership Communications in support of President Dmitry Medvedev at the G-20 summit in London – Intercept at Menwith Hill station.”

In Beijing, China called for Washington to provide explanations for the leaks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters yesterday that Washington needed to heed international concerns and “give the global community a necessary explanation.” Snowden told the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s main English language newspaper, last week that Americans had spied extensively on targets in China and Hong Kong.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pressured the Obama administration and said she was surprised by revelations of mass U.S. online surveillance and that she would call for “transparency” on its scope in talks with Barack Obama this week.

June/17/2013

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