Turkey to 'react' if US spy claims true
ANKARA / BERLIN
Telecom network cables are pictured in Paris, on June 30, 2013. The European Union angrily demanded answers from the United States over allegations Washington had bugged its offices, the latest spying claim attributed to fugitive leaker Edward Snowden. AFP PhotoThe Obama administration is under increasing pressure from its allies, including Turkey, following reports of covert U.S. surveillance of their missions in the country.
Turkish diplomatic sources have said Ankara would react if the claims of spying on Turkish missions were true. Along with the European Union embassies and missions in the United States, the U.S. intelligence agencies have spied on embassies and missions of many other countries including Turkey, according to the latest U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“We have seen the news reports and we have currently been examining those reports. If it is credible information, we will of course be showing the required reaction,” diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Hürriyet Daily News. The same sources, however, declined to comment when asked what they specifically meant by the term “required reaction.”
According to documents published by German magazine Der Spiegel on June 30, the NSA planted bugs in the EU’s diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building’s computer network. Similar measures were taken at the EU’s mission to the United Nations in New York and Brussels. The NSA also used secure facilities at NATO headquarters in Brussels to dial into telephone maintenance systems that would have allowed it to intercept senior officials’ calls and Internet traffic at a key EU office nearby.
Adding to woes, the Guardian newspaper published an article late June 30 alleging NSA surveillance of the EU offices, citing classified documents provided by Snowden. The Guardian said one document lists 38 NSA “targets,” including embassies and missions of U.S. allies like Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and India.
The reports have angered European governments, including heavyweights Germany and France. In response, the German government summoned the U.S. ambassador in Berlin. “Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. “We’re not in the Cold War anymore.”
French President François Hollande told the United States to immediately cease spying on European institutions. “We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies,” Hollande told journalists during a visit to the western city of Lorient. “We ask that this immediately stop.” Hollande said “enough elements have already been gathered for us to ask for explanations” from Washington about the spying allegations. “There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,” Hollande told journalists. It was an apparent reference to sensitive trade talks which are set to start between the U.S. and the EU on creating the world’s largest free trade zone.
Some Europeans have warned that the bugging revelations could scuttle ongoing negotiations on a trans-Atlantic trade treaty, which seeks to create jobs and boost commerce by billions annually.
EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton raised the issue with Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting on the sidelines of a security conference in Brunei. Kerry had said he didn’t know the details of the allegations, but maintained that many nations undertook lots of different kinds of activities to protect their national interests. “All I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations,” Kerry said. UN chief Ban Ki-moon also urged nations to protect the integrity of diplomatic missions on their soil. While refusing to comment directly on the reports, Ban stressed that “in principle, diplomatic missions should be protected, including [their] information.”
Elsewhere in the Europe, Italy stepped up its criticism of the surveillance, with Foreign Minister Emma Bonino saying Italy had asked the U.S. for the “necessary clarifications for this very thorny issue.” In Athens, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras said the Greek government could not understand why its missions should come under surveillance by “the services of a friendly and allied country” and was investigating the reports.