Ankara rejects Iceland's claims over airport mistreatment of national team

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 12.06.2019 00:15

Ankara on Tuesday rejected Iceland's explanation regarding the mistreatment of the Turkish national football team at its airport. The explanation suggested that Turkey only notified Icelandic authorities hours prior to the team's arrival in the Nordic country.

Turkish diplomatic sources told Anadolu Agency (AA) that an official request for a fast track security check at the airport for the footballers was made on May 16 through diplomatic channels. The request was renewed on June 6 and again brought to the attention of Icelandic authorities.

The announcement came after Icelandic authorities said Monday that Turkish authorities informed Icelandic counterparts just hours before the arrival and the Turkish national football team and staff had passed through security and border patrol one hour and 21 minutes after their plane landed at the airport, despite the claims of Turkish footballers. "Unfortunately, an official request for a fast track security check from the Turkish Embassy in Oslo was not received in time to be processed, as it was sent on only hours prior to the team's arrival in Keflavik. In any case, such privileges are usually only accorded to senior government officials," Icelandic authorities said.

However, Turkish footballers claimed their bags were searched one by one and that airport authorities deliberately slowed down the process.

Turkish forward Burak Yılmaz said on social media that the authorities made the team wait more than three hours at passport control and subjected them to strict security checks, repeatedly searching the players' belongings thoroughly. "What they have done is disrespectful. We have been waiting for three hours. They took everyone's bags. They are repeatedly searching the bags. We flew for six and a half hours and have been waiting for another three hours. Some of our friends still haven't come out," Yılmaz said.

Also, an unidentified man, who was thought to be a journalist, held up what appeared to be a toilet brush to Turkey's midfielder Emre Belözoğlu, imitating reporters talking to players. The act drew strong reactions from Turkish society.

Regarding the issue, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on the phone his Icelandic counterpart, Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, saying that the treatment of Turkish national team at the airport was unacceptable. He also reiterated that Turkey had informed Icelandic authorities twice before arrival, refuting allegations of late notice.

Parliamentary speaker Mustafa Şentop also sent a letter to his counterpart, Steingrimur J. Sigfusson, calling on him to do whatever necessary to protect friendly relations between the two countries.

On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a phone call to the head of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), Nihat Özdemir, requesting him to convey a message of solidarity to the national team and its coach, Şenol Güneş. According to a TFF statement, Erdoğan also told Özdemir that Turkish authorities took all the necessary action in the case.

The Iceland football federation said they will issue a statement over the treatment the Turkish national team received, calling the whole affair "strange." Later, Omar Smarason, head of media and marketing at the Football Association of Iceland, said all passengers from "non-certified" airports receive similar checks.

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