Turkey slams Washington’s remarks on religious freedom ahead Pompeo visit
Washington’s top diplomat will be in Istanbul next Monday and Tuesday as part of a seven-nation tour that also takes him to France and parts of the Middle East.
The Istanbul leg is notable for the absence of scheduled meetings with any top Turkish officials.
His only planned talks are with Bartholomew I of Constantinople - the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox world.
Following Paris, “Secretary Pompeo will travel to Istanbul, Turkey to meet with His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, to discuss religious issues in Turkey and the region and to promote our strong stance on religious freedom around the world,” the State Department said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Nov.11 lashed out at the U.S. State Department for raising concerns “over religious issues” ahead of Pompeo’s visit to Istanbul.
Noting Turkey’s progress in the field of religious freedoms over the past 20 years, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy in a statement said, “The language employed in the press statement regarding the State Secretary’s visit is completely irrelevant.”
“Our reaction to this effect has been duly conveyed to the U.S. side, together with our advice to focus instead primarily on increasing the cooperation between our countries regarding regional and global matters,” the spokesperson said.
“It would be more suitable for the U.S. to first look in the mirror and show the requisite sensitivity towards human rights violations in the country such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes,” Aksoy stated.
Aksoy also underlined that Turkey sees “no objection in having foreign official guests meet with representatives of religious communities in the countries they visit” and recalled the country’s historical record for its diversity and of hosting different religions for centuries.
“Whereas religious minorities throughout the world, and especially Muslims, have been forced to perform their worship under unfavorable conditions and constant threats, non-Muslim Turkish citizens have been able to freely perform their religious duties. The freedom of worship of Turkish citizens from different faiths is being protected. Consequently, the language employed in the press statement regarding the State Secretary’s visit is completely irrelevant,” he said.