Romanian public opinion and state officials, just like all European and global leaders, have monitored with bated breath the recent events in Turkey and the developments that followed the failed coup d’état. President Klaus Iohannis and Premier Dacian Ciolos’s public statements emphasised the importance of restoring stability in Turkey, a country that is Romania’s strategic partner, on the basis of respect for democracy and the institutions that were democratically elected by the Turkish people.
At the same time, the Romanian authorities’ immediate concern was to ensure the safety of Romanian citizens in Turkey.
Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) announced on Saturday that in the context of the fast-moving events in Turkey, a crisis coordination cell has been set up to analyse “the most efficient ways” to provide consular assistance to Romanian citizens on Turkish soil, as well as the political implications of the ongoing events triggered by a failed attempt to overthrow the government.
According to the Ministry, no casualties or injuries have been reported so far among Romanians in Turkey following the recent violent events that saw the Turkish capital rocked by violent clashes overnight, bomb blasts and gunfire.
The crisis coordination cell continuously worked through since Friday night, also keeping contact with travel agencies and tourism companies operating on the Romania – Turkey connection.
With tensions still running high, the Foreign Ministry reiterated on Saturday an earlier call on Romanians who are in Turkey to avoid any trip that is not absolutely necessary, so as not to unnecessarily expose themselves to risk.
“As soon as security conditions allowed, a team of the Romanian General Consulate in Istanbul went to the Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport to assist Romanians inside the airport precincts,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
President Iohannis: Turkey’s stability on the basis of respect for democracy is important for regional, European and international security
“The Romanian President has been in permanent contact with competent Romanian institutions ever since the events started,” reads a statement posted on the Romanian Presidency’s website on Saturday.
“Turkey is Romania’s strategic partner and NATO ally, and the country’s stability, on the basis of respect for democracy and for the institutions democratically elected by the Turkish people, is important for regional, European and international security.”
“President Klaus Iohannis expresses his hope that public order will be restored in the shortest of time. Romania’s diplomatic mission and consulates in Turkey are ready to offer all assistance necessary, if needed, to Romanian citizens in Turkey,” reads the President’s statement posted on the Presidency’s website.
PM Ciolos: Only path for Turkey is the return to constitutional order and rule of law
“The only path for Turkey is the return to constitutional order and the rule of law. This morning, at the informal meeting of European Union heads of state and government present at the ASEM Summit, I condemned, along with all the other European leaders, all actions of violence and aggression against the democratically-elected state institutions. Turkey is a key partner for Romania and for the European Union,” Premier Dacian Ciolos was quoted in a press statement posted on the Government’s website.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry has assured me that the crisis coordination cell set up last night based on the minister’s order is fully operational and is in touch with the Romanian citizens who need assistance. At the same time, the Romanian embassy and consulates in Turkey are on alert and ready to help all Romanian citizens who need support.”
242 Romanians stranded at the Ataturk Airport repatriated on Saturday and Sunday
TAROM’s RO2264 humanitarian flight landed in Bucharest on Sunday morning, at 4.10 a.m., bringing a second group of 108 Romanian citizens from among those that had been stranded on the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.
The humanitarian flights, whose costs were covered by the MAE from its emergency situations and crisis fund, brought back home Romanians who were unable to use the services of other airlines, a MAE press release shows.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry’s (MAE) crisis coordination cell was urgently activated at the onset of the crisis in Turkey, managing all specific repatriation procedures in collaboration with the Romanian institutions that have prerogatives in this domain.
“Approximately 2,300 calls have been registered. All diplomatic missions and consulates in the region, coordinated by the crisis coordination cell, have been involved in offering the necessary consular assistance and protection (Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Sofia, Athens, Romania’s honorary consulate in Antalya). Likewise, the structures of MAE’s crisis coordination cell are working around the clock. At the same time, mobile consular teams have been deployed to the airports in Istanbul (where two special information/gathering points were set up) and Ankara, as well as at the border crossing points that register the highest traffic between Turkey and Bulgaria, offering the necessary assistance,” the communique shows.
The crisis coordination cell continues to monitor developments. In order to offer adequate consular assistance and to ensure the prompt registering of Romanian citizens’ requests, MAE has also activated the TelVerde 0800 800 407 phone line (accessible only from Romania, free of cost) as well as the email@example.com email address. Romanian citizens who are currently in Turkey can still use the following phone numbers: +90.3188.8.131.520; +90 212 3583541; +90 212 3580516; +90 212 3583537, +90 232 4650579.
The first airliner bringing 134 Romanians from Turkey landed at the Otopeni Airport on Saturday evening. Olympiad students and Concordia Chiajna FC footballers were among them. People recounted the moments of terror they experienced during the coup and the long waiting hours at the airport. They all said it will be difficult for them to get over this experience.
“We didn’t leave the airport. The moment we got there we were stranded there. You could hear the chaos outside. It was terrible, we heard gunfire and at that moment we thought they were going to come where we were, because nobody was telling us anything. Everyone hid, at the check-in, at the security… They allowed people to come in, effectively with no verifications,” a young woman said.
Many of the 130 Romanians who returned home had waited for as much of 20 hours at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.
“It was indescribable, complete chaos, it’s hard to imagine. Supersonic jets started flying above, causing terrible noise,” one of the passengers recounted.
Concordia Chiajna FC footballers, who were training in Turkey, were among the passengers.
“It was an agitated night, lots of gunfire could be heard, we couldn’t rest. It was a sleepless night, the events were fairly scary and we were also a bit lucky that we were at the hotel when they started,” Marius Pena said.
“We were at the hotel when it started, we didn’t sleep all night, there was gunfire, explosions, fighter jets, something I never want to experience again. On the streets there were abandoned cars, people were running, screaming, it was very ugly. What we saw was the stuff of movies,” Stefan Barboianu said.
Five students were among the Romanians stranded at the Istanbul airport. They were supposed to go to Vietnam to take part in the Biology Olympiad. However, flights to that destination were cancelled.
“They had tickets through Dubai and the solution was to switch flights in Turkey, without them thinking about the children, about the situation in Turkey. This always happens, the cheaper option is accepted” the mother of one of the students said.
“We talked with the children every half hour, same with the teachers, they assured us that the children are safe,” another parent said.
There are currently around ten thousand Romanian tourists in Turkey, most of them in Antalya and Bodrum.
Turkish ambassador to Bucharest encourages Romanians not to change vacation plans
In an exclusive interview for Realitatea TV on Saturday evening, the Turkish ambassador to Romania issued messages of reassurance and encouraged Romanians not to change their vacation plans. At the same time, Osman Koray Ertas commented on the recent events at a special Realitatea TV talk-show anchored by Alexandru Cumpanasu.
Turkish Ambassador to Romania Osman Koray Ertas stated on Realitatea TV that Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the attempted coup d’état that took place on Friday night.
“This attempted coup d’état was started by a small group from within the Armed Forces, which belongs to a terrorist organisation, a parallel structure. Why are we calling it a parallel structure? Because it’s a group of people who follow a radical Muslim cleric (Fethullah Gulen – editor’s note). He is living in the United States, in a self-imposed exile. The members of this religious cult are present in various institutions – the Armed Forces, the Police, the Intelligence Services, the judiciary – so when in the army you receive orders from your superiors they too, in their turn, received orders from this imam. They formed a state within a state. Our intelligence services have warned for years that the members of this parallel structure are present in the Armed Forces, but the Armed Forces have a special status, so nothing was done to look for these members. Unfortunately, yesterday we learned a great lesson. The members of this group tried to launch this military intervention in the country: it was something obvious, most generals were against this coup d’état,” Osman Koray Ertas explained.
The imam accused of being behind the coup and his ties with Romania
“He is a two-faced imam. One face is trying to show that he is protecting schools, including in Romania – they have 11 schools in Romania –, they have humanitarian organisations. Likewise, when he talks for the foreign press he has messages of friendship, of tolerance etc. But his dark side… he speaks in Turkish and he always encourages his followers to be covert, to hide, to wait for the right moment and then to end up at the helm of institutions. We have seen this ugly side of his in the last two years,” the Turkish diplomat added.
The ambassador pointed out that the members of the said “parallel structure” enjoyed the people’s and the government’s support for some time, however that went on until around three years ago when “it turned out they had other plans against the state and to take over the whole structure.”
“In the last two years we tried to find these people. It’s like an Illuminati group. You cannot identify them by appearances, they are hiding. Every year, in August, the most important members meet in order to decide who will be withdrawn and whom they will promote. For August 2016 they have prepared a long list to verify who are the people who have extra disciplinary ties with the Armed Forces. So this group found out that there will be changes in August. People were caught wrong footed but as you can see the entire nation has protected democracy,” Koray Ertas said.
Osman Koray Ertas also stated that an assassination attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place on the night of Friday to Saturday, after a helicopter gunship started firing on a hotel in Marmaris where the Head of State was staying when the conflicts erupted. The ambassador explained that the pilot of the helicopter gunship allegedly had on him one of Gulen’s prayers.
Subsequently, talking to Realitatea TV by phone, the Turkish ambassador gave messages of reassurance and encouraged Romanians not to change their vacation plans.
Lumina Institutii de Invatamant schools reject Turkish ambassador’s accusations
Lumina Institutii de Invatamant rejected on Sunday, through a press release, all accusations brought by the Turkish ambassador to Romania and pointed out that “they are groundless and made with ill-intent.”
“We reserve the right to defend in the face of these accusations through all institutional means available,” the document reads.
The communique points out that “Lumina Institutii de Invatamant is an educational centre consisting of several national and international schools, which has been operating in Romania for over 20 years in line with the laws of the Romanian state.”
“Lumina Institutii de Invatamant schools have to do solely with excellence in education, with the school results and prestige that our students are bringing to Romania each year at international Olympiads and competition, from which they return laden with medals. Lumina schools are multicultural and multireligious schools.”
“We already take pride in more than 1,500 of our graduates who enrolled in prestigious universities and today many of them are active in important companies and institutions in the country and abroad, are developing successful businesses or are dedicating themselves to research. Lumina Institutii de Invatamant schools are accredited by the Education Ministry and are operating in line with school regulations and with the national curricula,” the communique reads.
Less than 10 pc of Romanians who planned to go to Turkey cancelled their vacations
The attempted coup in Turkey has not frightened Romanian tourists too much. Thus, less than 10 percent of Romanians who planned to go to Turkey have given up on their vacation plans.
Alin Burcea, President of the National Association of Tourism Agencies (ANAT), stated on Saturday that over 1,000 Romanian tourists have left for Antalya in recent days. Likewise, fully-booked charter planes left for the main Turkish tourism resorts on Sunday too.
He also stated that tourists who give up on their vacations in Turkey would be paid reimbursements.
Alin Burcea added that there is no standard procedure that would force tourism agencies to notify tourists that major incidents have occurred in the country of destination.
He added that he does not believe many cancellations will follow, since things are starting to return to normal in Turkey.