Turkey demands explanation over British spying allegations

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Ankara on Monday summoned Britain’s charge d'affaires to explain newspaper allegations that the UK spied on the Turkish finance minister’s communications during a 2009 G20 meeting in London.

The Turkish ministry summoned the charge d'affaires “to express [their] concerns over the allegations” that Britain had monitored the finance minister’s emails and phone calls, a foreign ministry diplomat told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday that the British government, foreign politicians and diplomats who attended two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and phone calls intercepted.

South Africa has also asked the British government Monday to “take strong and visible action” over the allegations, according to AFP.

“We have solid, strong and cordial relations with the United Kingdom and would call on their government to investigate this matter fully with a view to take strong and visible action against any perpetrators,” the South African foreign ministry said.

The evidence regarding the alleged spying activity is contained in classified documents seen by the newspaper, which were uncovered by Edward Snowden, a U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower.

According to the documents, the surveillance program used in 2009 by the NSA’s sister agency, the British Government Communications Headquarters, included tricking delegates into using internet cafes that had been set up with email-reading software, and monitoring delegates’ BlackBerry phones, among other measures.

The spying appears to have been organized in order for Britain to gain an advantage in G20 meetings. Some of the targeted countries include allies such as Turkey and South Africa.

The documents suggest that the spying program was authorized at a senior level in then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government, with the intelligence being passed to British ministers.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, and other members of his delegation, were identified as “possible targets” in order to “establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit.”

Documents obtained by The Guardian also record the efforts of the NSA to target and decode then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s encrypted phone calls from London to Moscow, as well as other Russian officials.

The revelation is likely to cause embarrassment to Britain as it prepares to host a G8 summit this week. All of the G8 member nations also attended the G20 meetings in 2009.

Visiting delegates will likely want British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss whether they were targeted in 2009, and whether the surveillance will be repeated, according to The Guardian.

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