Dutch diplomat pulled out of Turkey over spy allegations

Turkish official says diplomat was gathering intelligence on Afrin operation, as Netherlands hastily pulls him out.

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    The Dutch government says the diplomat was working for their consulate in Istanbul [EPA]
    The Dutch government says the diplomat was working for their consulate in Istanbul [EPA]

    The Netherlands has pulled one of its diplomats out of Turkey on Monday after Turkish media reported that the consulate employee was exposed during spying activities.

    The Dutch foreign ministry said the diplomat, who worked at the Dutch consulate in Istanbul, left Turkey out of concerns for his safety.

    "For his own safety - due to the publicity - the official in question left Turkey on Monday. He worked at the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul, and was also responsible for regional activities," the ministry said in a statement.

    A Turkish official told Al Jazeera that the diplomat was exposed by the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, while he was engaged in intelligence activities.

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the diplomat was working to gather information on Turkey's military operation in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin.

    "The Turkish authorities did not make a diplomatic move to deport the Dutch diplomat after the evidence was gathered and allowed him to leave the country," he said.

    Several private Turkish media networks have been running footage, allegedly showing the diplomat during meetings with sources in Istanbul.

    Al Jazeera contacted the Dutch authorities for comment but did not get a reaction on the spying claims at the time of publication.

    Tense relations

    Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters started the military operation into Afrin in late January to remove a US-backed Kurdish militia - known as the People's Protection Units (YPG) - near its border. Ankara describes the armed group as "terrorists".

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    Relations between Ankara and the Netherlands have been tense in recent months.

    Turkey slammed the Dutch parliament's vote to recognise the World War I killings of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire as "genocide" last month.

    Relations hit another low in March 2017 when the Netherlands, among other European countries, banned Turkish ministers from addressing immigrants and expatriates in rallies within its borders for a referendum that later changed Turkey's parliamentary system to an executive presidency.

    Dutch authorities actively intervened to prevent a Turkish minister from reaching a consulate in the country to address Turks living there, leading to a diplomatic crisis.

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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