Mike Pompeo lists religious freedom as a priority prior to Istanbul trip
The American State Department released a statement on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Turkey to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, in Istanbul. According to the statement, Pompeo plans to “discuss religious issues in Turkey and the region” and working to “promote America’s strong stance on religious freedom around the world.”
In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called the statement “completely inappropriate,” defending Turkey as a nation that already recognises the right of people to practice their own faiths.
“It would be more advisable for the United States to look in the mirror first and to show the necessary sensitivity to human rights violations such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes in its own country,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement.
These comments from the State Department paint an interesting picture of what is ahead in terms of the US-Turkish alliance when it comes to religious freedom. Turkey’s record on the issue has come under fire recently with the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and the deportation of Christian evangelists.
Although President Trump has been known to have close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tuesday’s statement could signal a shift in attitudes in Washington towards bilateral relations with Turkey.