Turkey summons Lebanese ambassador over flag defacing

Turkey summons Lebanese ambassador over flag defacing

Five Lebanese lawyers have filed a legal complaint at the Beirut prosecutor’s office against several citizens, accusing them of defacing the Turkish flag.  

“Tony Orian and those who will be found as perpetrators, accomplices or instigators by the investigation, to be prosecuted with the offence of harming and disrupting the Lebanese relations with friendly Turkey.”

The five lawyers stated in their report that “Orian and others defaced a Turkish flag and hung it on the gates of the Turkish Embassy” in Rabieh, near Beirut, on Wednesday. They enclosed a CD containing photos of the incident.

Lawyers Mohammed Ziad Jaafeil, Jihad Abou Ammo, Wissam Al-Halabi, Firas Shraiteh and Noor Al-Din Baalbaki said that the report aims to “maintain the brotherly relationships between the two countries.”   

The Lebanese-Turkish diplomatic crisis worsened when some people wrote anti-Turkish expressions on a Turkish flag. The Internal Security Forces agents in charge of protecting embassies tried to prevent the perpetrators from hanging the flag, but they persisted, an act that was caught on camera by activists who published what they filmed on social media platforms.

According to Anatolia News Agency, following the flag incident, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Lebanese Ambassador Ghassan Al-Mouallem to Ankara and reported Ankara’s unease about the incident.

The people who hung the defaced flag belong to a group that calls itself the “Omega Team,” a group that supports the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which was founded by Lebanese President Michel Aoun and is currently led by Minister Gebran Bassil. 

In 2014, the same group stormed the Al Jazeera television office in Beirut, in response to the journalist Faisal Al-Qassem’s comments which it viewed as “offensive to the Lebanese Army.” 

The deterioration of Lebanese-Turkish ties was sparked by President Michel Aoun’s speech a week ago, which was delivered on the centenary of Greater Lebanon’s establishment.

“All attempts at liberation from the Ottoman yoke were met with violence, killings and the sowing of sectarian discord”, he said.

“The state terror practiced by the Ottomans against the Lebanese people, especially during World War One, caused hundreds of thousands of victims between famine, conscription and forced labor,” he said in his speech.

On the following day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Aoun’s words and said that his speech implied “malicious and biased signs related to the Ottoman rule, along with accusations against the Ottoman Empire of practicing state terror in Lebanon.”

The ministry considered that Aoun’s speech came “one week after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit to Lebanon, and is not consistent with the friendly relationships between the two countries.”

“It is an unfortunate and irresponsible speech,” it said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry defended “the Ottoman era during which the Middle East was marked by a long period of stability.” The ministry considered that “President Michel Aoun’s alteration of history, disregard for what happened during the colonial period, which is considered the source of all disasters today, and attempt to blame everything on the Ottoman rule, is nothing but a tragic manifestation of his passion for surrendering to colonialism.”

In response, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish Ambassador. The Lebanese ministry said: “President Michel Aoun’s speech reflected true historical events that happened in Lebanon during the Ottoman rule, that both the Turkish and Lebanese people have overcome. The two peoples aspire to better political and economic relationships in the future.”

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said that “addressing the Lebanese president in this manner is unacceptable and the Turkish ministry must rectify the error.”

However, the pro-FPM group’s actions exacerbated the crisis between the two countries and created a rift on social media with Tweets and counter Tweets, especially by Armenian Twitter users accusing the Ottoman state of committing massacres against Armenians in Turkey, as this community is still demanding an official apology from Turkey until today.

Krikor Ekmekgian tweeted: “Turkey was and still is a disgrace to all humanity”.

Hala Haddad asked the Lebanese people who are justifying the Turkish attack against the Lebanese President “whether they were doing it to spite him or out of love for the Ottoman rule.” She said: “Those who love Turkey this much should go there as soon as possible.”

Lebanese presidential spokesperson Rafiq Chelala told Arab News: “There are people who want to create a problem out of nothing. President Michel Aoun spoke about a previous period and did not speak about the Turkish state. And regarding his words on the Ottoman Empire, President Aoun talked about facts and martyrs. Otherwise, why is there a Martyrs’ Statute in the heart of Beirut? Don’t we have martyrs anymore? Didn’t famine exist on Mount Lebanon? Did Seferberlik (Ottoman conscription) never happen? President Michel Aoun did not speak in the sectarian or religious sense.”

Chelala considered what happened in front of the Turkish embassy in Rabieh “a reaction and not a political decision.”

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