Turkish political parties decide to distance members from US diplomats

ERCAN YAVUZ
 ANKARA
The fact that Turkey has the biggest share in hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables leaked on Sunday has changed Turkish politicians’ stance towards US diplomats, with political parties taking action to distance themselves from US diplomats.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have reportedly banned their members from having backstage talks with US diplomats. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is also expected to bring such a ban soon.
Disclosures from a massive release of US confidential diplomatic cables by whistleblower website WikiLeaks have shaken the trust of Turkish politicians in US diplomats since the disclosures showed that the US diplomats who exchanged views with Turkish politicians on various issues had conveyed every detail to their country.
A senior AK Party official who spoke to Today’s Zaman on condition of anonymity did not confirm that a ban was imposed on party members on talking with US diplomats but said he does not think any AK Party member will have a meeting with a US diplomat from now on. “None of our members will either honor an invitation by US diplomats or have talks with them. We do not even feel the need to bring such a ban. I think everyone drew a lesson from this incident. Everyone’s perception of diplomats has changed in Turkey. Not only are US diplomats but also all others included in that,” he said.
Noting that US diplomats used to exchange views with deputies ahead of parliamentary talks on every critical legal amendment, the same official said that although such meetings were before not seen as inappropriate, it will be difficult for US diplomats to even get an appointment from members of Turkish political parties.
Although the official said a ban has not been imposed on party members on meeting with US officials, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has reportedly ordered the party’s parliamentary group deputy chairmen to take measures to prevent party members from meeting with US diplomats. Sources said Erdo?an’s decision will be conveyed to party members soon and that members will be obliged to inform the party administration about any meetings with a US diplomat. The party will also record the main topic of any such meeting and its content.
The MHP had been distant from US diplomats even before the WikiLeaks disclosures. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli had refused to meet with former US Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson despite the former ambassador having asked for an appointment ahead of the 2007 parliamentary elections many times. Bahçeli received Wilson later on after a number of MHP officials intervened. Following the recent disclosures, Bahçeli introduced a strict ban on MHP officials meeting with US diplomats.
The CHP was also disturbed by US officials conveying every meeting they had in Turkey to their country as intelligence reports. The CHP has not banned its members from meeting with US diplomats, but the party plans to warn deputies who frequently have talks with US diplomats.


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