US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the head of the Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in Istanbul on Tuesday to discuss religious freedom in the country.
“Honored to meet with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and to visit the Patriarchal Church of St. George today. As leader of the Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
Honored to meet with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and to visit the Patriarchal Church of St. George today. As leader of the Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe. pic.twitter.com/1u96nPZwgV
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 17, 2020
Pompeo’s visit to the center of Greek Orthodoxy comes a few months after Turkey decided to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque. The Secretary of State’s wife, Susan, is Greek Orthodox.
Turkey decided to snub America’s top diplomat’s visit after the State Department had earlier stated that Pompeo would like to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul.
The Turkish FM had declared that he had decided not to travel to that city for the meeting. No government official will meet with Pompeo in an apparent response to Pompeo’s exclusion of Turkey during his recent extended trip to the Eastern Mediterranean – pointedly including Greece and Cyprus, along with a visit to Souda Bay Naval Base.
In Istanbul a rally took place against the visit of US Secretary of State Pompeo to Turkey. Speakers appealed to Pompeo, saying that “the Republic of Turkey is not Byzantine. This is not Constantinople, but Istanbul. Here your colonial laws do not hold.”
Genel Başkanımız Yıldırım Gençer:
❝Pompeo’ya sesleniyoruz: Burası Bizans değil, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti. Burası Konstantinapol değil, İstanbul. Burada sizin sömürge yasalarınız geçmez.❞ @yldrmgencerTGB #PompeoDefol pic.twitter.com/3TXfC9ER1w
— Uğur Albayrak (@Albyrkugur) November 17, 2020
On Monday during his visit to France, Pompeo said that Europe and the United States need to work together to address the problems posed by Turkey.
“France’s president Emmanuel Macron and I agree that Turkey’s recent actions have been very aggressive,” Pompeo told French daily newspaper Le Figaro.
Citing Turkey’s recent support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia as well as military moves in Libya and the Mediterranean, he stressed that “Europe and the U.S. must work together to convince Erdogan such actions are not in the interest of his people.”
Pompeo’s apparent unwillingness to meet with the Turkish leadership by not including Ankara on his itinerary seems to send a signal, rare in this Administration, that it is displeased with Turkey and the tide may finally be turning against it.