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OSCE Chairperson’s Personal Representatives on tolerance make first joint country visit to Turkey

turkey mapISTANBUL/ANKARA, December 11, 2014 – For the first time, a joint country visit of the three Personal Representatives of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on combatting discrimination and promoting tolerance took place in Turkey from 8-10 December 2014. The visit included meetings with civil society organizations in Istanbul and Ankara as well as a number of meetings with representatives of the Turkish government in Ankara. The aim of the visit was to discuss good practices and gaps in policy, activities and legislation as well as to consider areas in which the OSCE can provide further support in the implementation of OSCE commitments.

Talip Küçükcan, Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims, said: “During our joint visit to Turkey, we met with representatives of non-governmental organizations in Istanbul and government officials in Ankara, including Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Nabi Avcı, Minister of National Education. We are pleased that the OSCE Delegation was received by top officials in Turkey.”

The Personal Representatives met with government officials from the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as from the Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission and the Presidency of Religious Affairs. They also met with representatives of civil society organizations working in a range of different areas to discuss the respective challenges they face.

“Although their numbers today are quite small, Jews are an old and deeply-rooted community in Turkey. During this summer’s conflict in Gaza critics of Israel sometimes directed their anger toward the local Jewish community,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism. He also highlighted the importance of the recently adopted Ministerial Council Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, which states that international developments never justify anti-Semitism. “Our visit was brief, but we were able to explore the challenges both in conversation with civil society representatives and in focused discussions with senior government officials. I am grateful for the openness and candor which marked our visit.”

Alexey Avtonomov, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religion, said that he appreciated that “meetings with representatives of different institutions and organizations in both cities permitted a multi-dimensional picture of the situation in Turkey. All this creates a solid basis for co-operation between Turkey and the OSCE institutions towards achieving common objectives and implementing OSCE commitments.”

The Personal Representatives were accompanied on this joint country visit by representatives of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the 2014 Swiss OSCE Chairmanship. This is the fourth joint country visit of the Personal Representatives this year, concluding a series of visits made to the United States, Denmark and the Russian Federation. The fact that joint visits were held for the first time in three of those four countries demonstrates the importance attached to this topic by the OSCE, the Swiss Chairmanship and the participating States hosting the Personal Representatives.

The Personal Representatives will present a report on their visit to the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, which will include recommendations and identify areas of possible support by the OSCE and ODIHR. The Personal Representatives will also report to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 11 December 2014.

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Roland Bless/Spokesperson of the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship/Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the OSCE/Vienna

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