Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Dursun Çiçek has claimed that in light of intelligence that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists were getting ready to occupy the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul in 2014, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel that ISIL would not do such harm to Turkey.
The Hürriyet daily on Saturday reported Çiçek’s claim, which the deputy recently made in Parliament. When Özel reportedly warned Erdoğan of a likely occupation by ISIL, Erdoğan said: “ISIL would not do such harm to us. Busy yourself with other tasks.”
Çiçek, a former military officer, said he learned about the conversation from former Chief of General Staff Özel when he paid him a visit in September 2014.
Some Turkish news portals picked up the story quickly after Hürriyet reported it, but Hürriyet removed the link to the story few hours later.
Later on Saturday, former Chief of General Staff Özel denied Çiçek’s claim in a written statement, saying no such conversation took place between himself and Erdoğan.
In December, the former consul general of the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Öztürk Yılmaz, who was held hostage by ISIL for 101 days along with 48 others from the mission, said on live TV that none of his 16 diplomatic cables prompted Ankara to send help before it was too late.
Yılmaz, who is now an opposition deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), connected to Habertürk TV to respond to claims that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the decision to evacuate the consulate under the threat of ISIL. The extremist terrorist organization took hostage 49 staff members and dependents at the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul including the then-consul general, Yılmaz, on June 11, 2014 and released them in October of the same year.
In an angry call to the TV show, responding to rumors that it was his prerogative to make decisions in the face of the ISIL threat, the former diplomat said he has been keeping his silence due to his patriotism while strongly denying that he made the decision to keep the consulate open.
“I sent 16 urgent cables to Ankara about the threats and evacuation, but none received a response,” Yılmaz said, adding that he even asked for a helicopter and a plane to evacuate the consulate. He also said his visit to Ankara on May 25 and efforts to reach out to policy makers did not produce any results.
Yılmaz challenged anyone spreading such false arguments about him to face him in person as Mete Yarar, a former soldier, said on the same show that he heard such claims from three different sources.
The former consul general said his urgent cables are being kept in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “If I had been killed while in captivity, they would have probably put all the blame on me,” Yılmaz stated, referring to the rumors. Yılmaz added that he was held in captivity by ISIL for 101 days but that it did not dampen his patriotism.
After their release then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu welcomed the 49 captives home in a ceremony in which he kissed the then-consul general on the forehead.
Just 20 hours before ISIL occupied the Turkish consulate in Mosul and took 49 people captive, Davutoğlu had written a message on Twitter saying that all precautions had been taken for the security of the diplomatic mission.
To this day none of the captives have provided any accounts of their days under captivity to the media.