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Expert: Turkish minister visit unusual To ban or not to ban: a diplomatic conundrum

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu in Berlin during his visit to Germany on March 8

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu in Berlin during his visit to Germany on March 8

(Keystone)

The controversial visit that Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu plans for Sunday pushes the boundaries of usual diplomacy, according to international law expert Vincent Chetail.

It is “rather rare, in fact, exceptional” for a high-ranking minister to promote an electoral campaign abroad, said Chetailexternal link, a professor and centre director at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.

There are no international laws that apply to this kind of situation, he told swissinfo.ch. Each nation can refuse a foreign minister’s visit, he said, but that could cause diplomatic tensions.

On Thursday, the Swiss government said it had no reason to forbid him from visiting for safety reasons, because it believes the planned visit poses “no heightened threat to domestic security”.

Authorities in canton Zurich, citing security concerns, had asked the federal government to prevent him from visiting. Cavuşoğlu reportedly plans Zurich meetings with the Turkish consul generals of Switzerland and Austria. Later, he is expected to meet with Turkish community members living in Switzerland.

The Hilton hotel at Zurich airport said it would not allow him to hold the meetings there, citing security reasons. Similar cancellations happened in Germany. Cavuşoğlu has been drumming up support there for the Turkish referendum on April 16, which seeks to extend the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Adding to the delicate situation are the hundreds of asylum requests that Switzerland has received from Turkish citizens and a few diplomats since Turkey’s attempted coup last July.

Different context

The situation differs significantly from last November’s Swiss visit by Maria Elena Boschi, then Italian minister for constitutional reform, Chetail said.

Though she went to Zurich to drum up support for Matteo Renzi’s referendum on constitutional reform, he said, Turkey’s referendum constitutes something of a ballot-box “revolution” in that it would make way for a parliamentary regime to “become a presidential regime with larger powers conferred to the head of state.”

swissinfo.ch/ mam, ilj and jmh

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