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Germany, Italy close Istanbul consulates over security concerns in Turkey

Istanbul, Feb 2 (IANS) Germany and Italy have joined the growing list of Western countries having their consulates in Istanbul temporarily closed over security concerns, as Turkey is on high alert against possible retaliation for Quran burning incidents in several European countries.

The German Embassy in the capital Ankara announced on social media that the consulate in Istanbul was closed on Wednesday for security concerns. Meanwhile, the Italian Consulate General in Istanbul issued a statement on its website saying the consulate would be closed on Thursday.

The first to close its consulate in Istanbul was the Netherlands, which took the move on Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The recent demonstrations in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, where a Quran was burned and torn up respectively, can evoke anti-Western feelings and lead to demonstrations and protests,” the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a travel advisory to Turkey on Monday.

“There is also an increased threat of an attack against Western targets, diplomatic representations, and places of worship, particularly in Istanbul,” it warned.

Britain issued a similar travel advisory on Tuesday, warning of “a heightened threat of terrorist attacks against churches, synagogues, embassies, consulates, and other places frequented by Westerners in Istanbul”.

As a precaution, the British Consulate General in Istanbul has been closed to the public since Tuesday.

France and the US have also issued travel warnings for Turkey following the Quran burning incidents.

On Monday, the Turkish Interior Ministry announced that it had raised its security measures to the highest level against possible Islamic State and al-Qaida retaliation.

“Evaluations were made against all possible provocations, and our security measures were maximised after the sinister actions against our holy book, the Quran, in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark,” read a statement by the Ministry.