The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday expressed dismay at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s plans to visit Istanbul for talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios on “religious issues in Turkey,” suggesting that the United States should “first look in the mirror.”
According to a State Department press release published on Tuesday, the talks between Pompeo and Vartholomaios – part of a seven-nation tour on November 13-23 – are aimed at discussing “religious issues in Turkey and the region and to promote our strong stance on religious freedom around the world.”
“Turkey’s progress in the field of religious freedoms over the past 20 years is widely acknowledged. 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,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy responded in an announcement on Wednesday.
“Consequently, the language employed in the press statement regarding the State Secretary’s visit is completely irrelevant,” he said.
“It would be more suitable for the US 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,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, adding it would advise the US to “focus instead primarily on increasing the cooperation between our countries regarding regional and global matters.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a report by the Middle East Eye suggested that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would not travel to Istanbul to meet with Pompeo.