Turkey’s outgoing ambassador to London has insisted Britain’s press has shown no sign of vendetta against his country.
Ünal Çeviköz said his four-year posting in London represented a peak in UK-Turkey relations, seeing three presidential visits, two from the prime minister and “countless” trips here by the foreign minister.
In a wide-ranging farewell interview with Londra Gazete, conducted on the day the Alevi community demonstrated outside the embassy building, Mr Çeviköz defended their right to peaceful protest and said he did not feel any pressure from British officials over last year’s Gezi Park incidents.
“Britain is a country where press freedom is extremely advanced, so it is only natural for the press to reflect what is happening [in Turkey] in an open way” he said.
“I never saw this as anti-Turkey or against Turkey. It wasn’t regarded as such in Turkey either. If you looked at the output [of Western press outlets during the Gezi Park protests], these were largely based on news and events rather than opinion.”
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had criticised western media, the BBC and CNN in particular, for he what he called one-sided coverage of last summer’s unrest that began in Istanbul and spread across the country.
COMMUNITY UNITY ATTEMPTS
Mr Çeviköz’s time in office was marked by his attempts to unite the myriad cultural associations in the Turkish-speaking communities under a single umbrella organisation known as Turkuas.
He told Londra Gazete that his intention was always to help associations better achieve their own objectives.
But he said an impression emerged and gained widespread understanding that the embassy was attempting to intervene in association affairs.
“The Turkuas movement was just the result of my wish to bring together all our citizens equally, without discrimination, and to embrace them all,” he said.
“I think it was the misinterpretation was probably the reason why Turkuas does not encompass everyone in the way that I wanted.”
NADIR ‘AS WELL AS CAN BE’
Londra Gazete also asked Mr Çeviköz about the Turkish Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir, currently serving a ten year jail term for embezzling funds from his former company Polly Peck International.
Mr Nadir gave up his British nationality last year in an attempt to speed up an application to serve out the rest of his sentence in Turkey, but Mr Çeviköz said this possibility was still being discussed.
Nadir’s extradition, he said, did not rest exclusively with the solitary approval of the British justice secretary and was completed by a legal process.
But he added: “It would perhaps not be appropriate to contribute to a legal process by making any comment or statement.
“The Turkish Consulate visits him regularly in prison. If he has any needs, they help with that and do not leave him alone.
“Of course, [his health] is as good as can be for somebody in prison. But I hear that he hasn’t entirely lost hope. His health isn’t showing any kind of serious problems.”
Originally published in Londra Gazete on 19 June 2014.