A press statement released yesterday (10 November) by the U.S. Department of State mentions that Secretary of State Pompeo will, in the framework of a regional tour, meet with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Fener in Istanbul in order to discuss “religious issues in Turkey and the region and to promote strong U.S. stance on religious freedom around the world”.
We see no objection in having foreign official guests meet with representatives of religious communities in the countries they visit. In fact, foreign guests visiting Turkey have always met freely with representatives of various religious communities. Turkey enjoys a unique place in the world for being home for centuries to many different faiths.
Furthermore, 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. Consequently, the language employed in the press statement regarding the State Secretary’s visit is completely irrelevant.
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.
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.