YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially
covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo
illustration taken in Ankara. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has described the
leaking on YouTube of a recording of top security officials
discussing possible military operations in Syria as
"villainous" and the government blocked access to the
The anonymous posting followed similar releases on social
media in recent weeks which Erdogan has cast as a plot
orchestrated by political enemies to unseat him ahead of
March 30 elections. But it took the campaign to a higher
level, impinging on the most sensitive areas of national
An anonymous YouTube account posted what it presented as a
recording of intelligence chief Hakan Fidan discussing
possible military operations in Syria with Foreign Minister
Ahmet Davutoglu, Deputy Chief of military Staff Yasar Guler
and other top officials.
"They even leaked a national security meeting. This is
villainous, this is dishonesty...Who are you serving by doing
audio surveillance of such an important meeting?" Erdogan
declared before supporters at a rally ahead of March 30 local
polls that will be a key test of his support amid a
The foreign ministry described the leak as a "wretched
attack" on national security and said those behind it would
receive the heaviest punishment. It said some sections of the
recording had been manipulated. Reuters was unable to verify
the authenticity of the recordings.
The conversation appears to centre on a possible operation to
secure the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder
of the Ottoman Empire, in an area of northern Syria largely
controlled by militant Islamists.
Ankara regards the tomb as sovereign Turkish territory under
a treaty signed with France in 1921, when Syria was under
French rule. About two dozen Turkish special forces soldiers
permanently guard it.
"NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE"
Turkey threatened two weeks ago to retaliate for any attack
on the tomb following clashes between militants of the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda
breakaway group, and rival rebel groups in the area, east of
Aleppo near the Turkish border.
"An operation against ISIL has international legitimacy. We
will define it as al Qaeda. There are no issues on the al
Qaeda framework. When it comes to the Suleyman Shah tomb,
it's about the protection of national soil," a voice
presented as that of foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun
When the discussion turns to the need to justify such an
operation, the voice purportedly of Fidan says:
"Justification can be created. The matter is to create the
The Turkish telecoms authority TIB said it had taken an
"administrative measure" against YouTube, a week after it
blocked access to microblogging site Twitter.
A source in Erdogan's office said the video sharing service
was blocked as a precaution after the voice recordings
created a "national security issue" and said it may lift the
ban if YouTube agreed to remove the content.
Google said it was looking into reports that some users in
Turkey were unable to access its video-sharing site YouTube,
saying there was no technical problem on its side.