The United States has notified Ankara that the expected new release of classified US documents may contain references to Turkey, a Turkish official said on Friday.
US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Doug Silliman visited the Foreign Ministry earlier this week, briefing Turkish officials about the WikiLeaks release, which is expected in the next few days. Silliman said the US hoped the leaks will not contain anything about Turkey, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But Ankara appears to be bracing for the impact of the leaks, as the official said they are likely to include references to Turkey-US relations. The official, however, declined to comment on how Ankara would react, saying the documents should be made public first.
On Wednesday, the US administration said it has alerted Congress and begun notifying foreign governments that the WikiLeaks website is preparing to release sensitive US diplomatic files that could damage US relations with friends and allies across the globe.
WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed earlier this week that its new release would be seven times larger than the nearly 400,000 Pentagon documents related to the Iraq war that it made public in October.
“These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Wednesday at a press briefing. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.”
He said the State Department was prepared if the upcoming release includes State Department cables. “They involve discussions that we’ve had with government officials, with private citizens. They contain analysis. They contain a record of the day-to-day diplomatic activity that our personnel undertake. And this back and forth between the government of the United States and governments around the world, it is diplomacy in action. Inherent in this day-to-day action is trust that we can convey our perspective to other governments in confidence and that they can convey their perspective on events to us,” he said. “When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television and radio, it has an impact.”
The documents may also contain critical or derogatory statements about foreign leaders, according to reports. There are also documents reporting corruption allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations, sources familiar with the State Department cables held by WikiLeaks told Reuters on Wednesday. The allegations are major enough to cause serious embarrassment for foreign governments, the sources said.
On Thursday, WikiLeaks said six other countries, namely Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Israel were also briefed by US diplomats about the upcoming release.
Terror charges against Turkey, US
While the content of possible references to Turkey are unknown, the London-based daily al-Hayat said the WikiLeaks release includes documents showing Turkey has helped al-Qaida in Iraq and that the US is supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
One of the documents, a US military report, reportedly charges Turkey with failing to control its borders because Iraqi citizens residing in Turkey provided al-Qaida with supplies to build bombs, guns and ammunition. Other military documents call PKK members “freedom fighters” and say US forces set free arrested PKK members and gave weapons to the group, classified as a terrorist group by the US.
Both Turkish and US officials have said they were committed to fighting terrorism. But the impact of such revelations on the public is unknown should the leaks contain documents suggesting Turkish or US support for terrorist groups.
Relations between Turkey and the US have gone through ups and downs over Iran’s nuclear program and deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations. Whether the WikiLeaks release could create more tensions is unknown. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be in Washington over the weekend, when the WikiLeaks release is expected, and is scheduled to hold talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials on Monday and Tuesday.
The PKK presence in Iraq has strained Turkish-US ties in the past. But tensions have eased significantly since the militaries of the two countries began cooperating against the terrorist group in 2007.
“The US policy has never been nor will ever be in support of the PKK. Anything that implies otherwise is nonsense,” Deborah Guido, the spokesperson for the US Embassy, told Today’s Zaman of the reported WikiLeaks reference to the US stance on the PKK. “We are committed together with the Turkish government in fighting terrorism, whether from al-Qaida or the PKK. My government remains firmly committed to supporting Turkey’s efforts to combat the PKK, which has for too long threatened Turkey and taken Turkish lives,” she said. “The US is continuing all operational and information support and since the increase in PKK attacks has increased facilitation in various ways.”
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials also confirmed Turkey’s position on terrorism and continued cooperation with the US against the PKK. “We do not make a classification in our struggle against terrorism. We are against all kinds of terrorism no matter where it comes from,” the officials said, in an apparent reference to claims of Turkey’s support to al-Qaida.