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WikiLeaks: 2005-07-11: 05ANKARA4031: GOT Discourages Visit to Southeast by German Protestant Church Group

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 08:11 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05ANKARA4031 2005-07-11 14:08 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.

111408Z Jul 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 004031 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/11/2015 
Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.4 b and d. 
1. (C) Summary: GOT officials tried to discourage a German 
Protestant Church delegation from visiting southeastern 
Turkey as part of a fact-finding mission on refugee issues. 
The Turkish press reported that the MFA and national 
intelligence organization (MIT) sent a letter warning 
governors not to meet with the group.  The letter also 
reportedly accused the delegation of advocating a lifting of 
legal restrictions on the PKK in Germany; German embassy 
contact finds reports of the letter credible.  Our German 
contact said the head of the Protestant Church will write a 
letter to the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin to protest the 
GOT's treatment of the group.  End Summary. 
2. (U) July 7 Thomas Bagger, political and press counselor at 
the German Embassy, confirmed to us Turkish press reports 
about problems faced by a delegation of Protestant Church 
representatives who visited Turkey on a fact-finding mission 
on refugee and asylum issues.  The delegation, comprising 
members of a council of the Protestant Church of Germany and 
the Brussels-based Church Commission for Migrants in Europe, 
traveled to Ankara, Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Van, and Midyat 
during their June 6-17 visit. 
3. (U) Bagger said the problems began in Berlin when the 
group was working with the Turkish Embassy on the itinerary. 
Turkish diplomats were cooperative at first, then suddenly 
told delegation members their plans to tour the southeast 
were "unwelcome" and they should limit their contacts to 
Ankara and Istanbul.  The Protestant officials approached the 
German Foreign Ministry for help.  The German Embassy in 
Ankara raised the matter with the MFA, but officials there 
were unsupportive. 
4. (C) Governors and subgovernors in the southeast uniformly 
declined to meet with the 11-member delegation.  The Turkish 
press reported that the MFA and Turkish National Intelligence 
Organization (MIT) sent a letter to the governors warning 
them not to meet with the group, and alleging that the 
delegation was working to remove restrictions on the PKK in 
Germany and promote recognition of the Armenian "genocide." 
Bagger told the press that if the existence of the letter is 
confirmed, it would harm bilateral relations.  Bagger told us 
GOT officials both in Ankara and Berlin deny that any such 
letter was sent.  However, he doesn't believe them -- a 
journalist whom Bagger regards as credible told him he had 
seen the letter. 
5. (C) We tried to discuss the issue with the MFA, but could 
find no one who would take responsibility for the issue.  We 
contacted five different MFA offices, as each one referred us 
to another office. 
6. (U) In the event, the delegation met with UNHCR 
representatives, bar association attorneys, and NGO officials 
in the southeast. In Ankara and Istanbul the group met with 
parliamentarians, security officials, and European Commission 
representatives, as well as NGO leaders.  AK Party MP Cavit 
Torun, a member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, 
invited the press to his meeting with the delegation.  Torun 
accused delegation members of seeking to exploit problems in 
Turkey to convert Muslims to Christianity (Note: This was the 
same meeting in which Torun said President Bush and Saddam 
Hussein were both "tyrants" (reftel)). 
7. (U) Bagger said the delegation came to Turkey primarily to 
collect information on how Turkish authorities handle refugee 
and asylum cases.  The Protestant Church plays a major role 
in providing relief for refugees in Germany.  The delegation 
was also interested in the return of Kurdish and Syriac 
migrants to the southeast, and the situation of Christian 
churches in Turkey. 
8. (C) Bagger said the head of the Protestant Church of 
Germany will send a letter to the Turkish Ambassador in 
Berlin protesting the GOT's treatment of the delegation. 
Bagger expects the controversy to die there, though the event 
will "take its place on the list of concerns about Turkey." 
9. (C) PM Erdogan and other GOT leaders have recently 
expressed growing unease about visits to the southeast by 
European delegations.  It is natural for visitors interested 
in human rights, or refugees, to tour the beleaguered region. 
 But the Turks tend to view outsiders' interest in the 
southeast as promotion of Kurdish separatism.  In the eyes of 
the Turkish government and State, this Protestant group 
raised fears about separatism and fed already deep and open 
prejudices against "Christian missionaries". 

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