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Cablegate: Istanbul Police Close Patriarchate Press Center

VZCZCXRO0132
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #2115/01 3321243
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281243Z NOV 06
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6397
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0006
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2277

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 002115

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: ISTANBUL POLICE CLOSE PATRIARCHATE PRESS CENTER
THEN RELENT

REF: ISTANBUL 2081

ISTANBUL 00002115 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

This message has been coordinated with Embassy Ankara.

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 27, Istanbul police briefly
shut down a press center organized by the Ecumenical
Patriarchate at a local hotel. Press arrangements for the
Papal visit to the Patriarchate had been the subject of some
dispute earlier in November (reftel) but both Patriarchate
staff and Turkish government officials had indicated that the
furor over "accreditation" had been resolved. The closure
order appears to have been caused by sensitivity within the
Istanbul Governor's office over the use of the term
"Ecumenical Patriarchate" in registration documents at the
center. End summary.

2. (SBU) A member of the Archons of the Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese of America contacted us on November 27 to report
that police had declared an off-site press center run by the
Patriarchate "illegal" and ordered it closed. Patriarchate
staff told us that they had contracted with the hotel several
weeks in advance of the November 29-30 Papal visit to
Istanbul to provide ballroom space for use by visiting press
as a filing center. According to Patriarchate staff,
Government of Turkey representatives contacted them on
November 24 and offered to provide funding for the filing
center in exchange for control over the venue. The
Patriarchate said "thanks but no thanks" to the GOT offer and
continued with their plans.

3. (SBU) The press center opened on the morning of November
27 and functioned as planned for several hours, according to
Patriarchate staff. In the early afternoon the police
arrived and told press center organizers that the center had
to close. According to press center organizers the police
first indicated that the center was "illegal" because it was
accrediting members of the press, a function that the GOT was
already performing. The organizers explained that the center
was not accrediting press, but simply registering press
members who apply to use the filing center to limit numbers
for occupancy levels and fire safety concerns. The press
center communications director assured the police that press
center registration in no way supersedes GOT accreditation.
At this point the police pointed to registration badges that
read "Papal Voyage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate" and
indicated that the badges "created confusion" through the
reference to the "Ecumenical Patriarchate", a title that the
GOT does not recognize. Contacts at the General Directorate
of Media and Information indicate that particular sensitivity
at the Istanbul Governor's office over the ecumenical
phraseology prompted the police inquiry.

4. (SBU) We later found out from General Directorate of
Media and Information contacts that the GOT realized somewhat
late in the game that they needed a press center to support
the Papal visit. The Foreign Ministry instructed Media and
Information staff to negotiate with the Patriarchate to take
control of the press center. Media and Information seemed to
believe that they would be able to take charge of the press
center when it opened on November 27. However, Media and
Information staff appear to have abandoned this effort and
the press center is currently operational under Ecumenical
Patriarchate direction.

5. (SBU) The afternoon's events unfolded in front of dozens
of members of the press who were there to register at the
press center. Not surprisingly, almost all major Turkish
newspapers covered the altercation in the next day's
editions. Most of the articles claimed that the reason for
the attempted closure was the Istanbul Governor's office
objection to a second "accreditation" and noted that once it
was explained that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was only
registering media for use of the press center and not
providing a second accreditation, the center was reopened.
Several articles also mentioned that the center was using the
term "Ecumenical Patriarchate" on its materials, but they did
not indicate that sensitivity towards this phraseology was a
motivation for the police action.

6. (SBU) Comment: Nomenclature can be a neuralgic issue in
Turkey and the GOT has long refused to recognize the
ecumenical nature of the Ecumenical Patriarch. However,
attempting to shut down an operating press center -- in front
of what organizers described as "hundreds of television
cameras and other reporters" -- is likely to draw
international attention to the Ecumenical Patriarch's
treatment by the GOT in a way that rebounds very negatively

ISTANBUL 00002115 002.2 OF 002


for the GOT. End Comment.
JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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