US, UK, Switzerland and six EU countries temporarily close consulates in Istanbul over increased security threats. Turkey not amused

TURKEY – The US, UK, Switzerland, Sweden and the six EU countries Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and France have temporarily closed their consulates in Istanbul due to the increased risk of attacks, especially in crowded and tourist areas. The consulate closures and increased threat against western targets come in part after Quran burnings in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Since these burnings of the book sacred to Muslims, protests and anti-Western rhetoric have been resounding in several Muslim-majority countries, including in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. In recent days, several Western countries have put their travel advice for Istanbul on higher alert and recommend their citizens to be extra vigilant or not to travel to crowded areas of the city of 16 million. They cite the anti-Western protests and demonstrations as posing an increased threat of retaliatory attack against Western targets, diplomatic missions and places of worship, particularly in Istanbul.

Turkey is not amused over the consulate closure and security warnings. AP News reports that Turkey on Thursday slammed the nine Western countries of “waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkey’s tourism industry.” Several ambassadors were also summoned in protest by the Turkish Ministry of Turkish Foreign Affairs.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, known for his public anti-Western statements, called the consulate closures and travel warnings part of a Western plot to hit the Turkish tourism industry and keep his country dependent on the West.

The Quran burnings and subsequent commotion, protests and demonstrations come several months before Turkey’s general elections in May. It is known that the politically cunning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ancillary Interior Minister Soylu will miss no opportunity to mobilize the masses in Turkey behind them. Here, the provocative Quran burnings might play into their hands.