Turkish finance minister signals measures against UK on spying claims

Turkish finance minister signals measures against UK on spying claims

Finance Minister Mehmet Shimshek, one of the officials reportedly spied on during a G20 meeting in London in 2009, indicated on Tuesday that Turkey could take measures against NATO ally Britain if that claim is proven to be true, saying the Foreign Ministry is working on the issue Today`s Zaman reported.

"The necessary reaction has been shown. If there are other steps [that need] to be taken, our Foreign Ministry needs to study them. Our Foreign Ministry is taking necessary steps," Shimshek told reporters in Ankara.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that the report on spying, published in the UK Guardian earlier in the day, was worrying and that it is clear that this will be a scandal even if the report is partly true. The statement stressed that mutual trust, respect and transparency are essential in international cooperation and added that it is clear that such a behavior from an ally is "unacceptable."

There was no further comment from the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

The Guardian reported that the UK secret wiretapping agency, GCHQ, targeted Şimşek and other foreign officials during a G20 meeting in London in September 2009. The GCHQ, said the Guardian, also considered monitoring the communications of 15 named members of his staff and of Turkey's Central Bank, but it was not clear which if any of the staff members were ultimately placed under surveillance.

The goal was to collect information about the Turkish position on the reform of the global financial infrastructure in the wake of the world banking crisis, said the Guardian.

Shimshek said the spying appeared to have aimed at finding out the Turkish position on international financial inspection and global financial reforms as well as Turkey's dialogue with other G20 partners on these issues. "The necessary reaction will be shown," he said.

In a statement on the Turkish reaction, the British Foreign Office confirmed that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has contacted the British Embassy in Ankara on the alleged spying. It denied that the British ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, saying the Turkish authorities contacted the embassy by phone.

The Foreign Office echoed an earlier statement by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that it will not comment on intelligence matters. "We never comment on security or intelligence issues and I am not about to start now," Cameron said on Monday during a G8 summit in London. "I don't make comments on security or intelligence issues. That would be breaking something that no government has previously done." GCHQ also declined to comment on the report.

The Guardian report revealed details about the GCHQ spying, stating that the GCHQ had hacked emails stolen passwords and even set up a bugged Internet cafe to monitor foreign officials' communications.

Other countries whose diplomats were spied on during the same meeting also reacted angrily. "It's a scandal! The US and British special services tapped [then President Dmitry] Medvedev's phone at the 2009 G20 summit. The US denies it, but we can't trust them," Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected chief of foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, wrote on his Twitter feed on Monday.

South African diplomats said in a statement that they were concerned by the report, according to the Associated Press, demanding that London "investigate this matter fully."

Spying on foreign diplomats is an old practice and the AP cited experts as saying that the expressions of shock from Turkey and other countries may be spurious since it's widely known that all nearly all countries spy on one another. But Britain's standing could nevertheless suffer real damage. "The diplomatic fallout from this could be considerable," British academic Richard J. Aldrich, whose book "GCHQ" charts the agency's history, was quoted as saying.

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