Turkey summons Belgian ambassador to discuss prime minister's presence at iftar

The Belgian ambassador to Turkey has been called to account in Ankara for the presence of prime minister Alexander De Croo at an iftar dinner in Antwerp this month, La Dernière Heure reports.

According to La DH, the event was organised by a non-profit organisation allegedly linked to Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen, who Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the failed coup in 2016.

The iftar, a meal consumed by Muslims during the fasting month of Ramadan after sunset, took place at the Hilton Hotel in Antwerp on 11 March. The Belgian-Turkish non-profit organisation Fedactio also invited Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt and other dignitaries.

The Gülen movement has been considered public enemy number one by the Turkish regime for years. After the failed coup, Ankara launched a manhunt for journalists, police officers, teachers and other citizens suspected of having links to Gülen. More than 150,000 civil servants were dismissed or suspended, and several media outlets were forced to close. Gülen himself lives in exile in the US.

De Croo's cabinet says the Belgian ambassador to Turkey was "contacted to discuss the presence of the prime minister at an iftar organised by Fedactio in Antwerp". De Croo accepted the invitation "without any political agenda" and will attend several other iftars during the month of Ramadan, his cabinet said. Next week, he will attend an iftar organised by Turkish indoor football club Futsal Besiktas Ghent.


Prime minister Alexander De Croo at the event on 11 March in Antwerp © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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