Swiss Turkish Row Brewing Over Kurdish TV

ZURICH (Reuters)–Turkey’s conflict with outlawed Kurdish guerrillas is causing a stir in neutral Switzerland–where controversial cable programming has spawned a political row between Berne and Ankara.

Turkey lodged an official complaint with Switzerland after the Basle Cable Network replaced broadcasts of Turkish state-run television TRT with Med TV–a channel suspected of links to Kurdistan Workers’ Party–also known as PKK–officials said on Wednesday.

Turkey’s charge d’affaires in Berne on Monday called on the Swiss government to overturn the network’s decision to broadcast Med TV–which replaced TRT television on January 2.

Both Turkey and Switzerland say the PKK has used Med TV as a mouthpiece.

The Basle Cable Network–which says it launched Med TV upon popular demand–is run by an independent foundation which includes state officials. It broadcasts in 22 languages.

"We are waiting for the cancellation of the (cable station’s) decision. This is our expectation," an official at the Turkish embassy in Berne told Reuters.

"In our opinion–Med TV is a propaganda instrument of the PKK and it is very provocative. Every other day (Kurd leader Abdullah) Ocalan takes part in the program by telephone," said the official–who requested anonymity.

Swiss foreign ministry spokeswoman Monika Schmutz said the government was actively seeking a solution to prevent the row from escalating.

She also said Switzerland’s charge d’affaires in Ankara had been summoned to Turkey’s foreign ministry to discuss the issue.

Heinrich Loeffler–a top official at the Basle Cable Network Foundation–said the station would hold a high-level meeting on January 11 to deal with the controversy.

But he indicated that Med TV – which is broadcast from Britain – was likely to remain on the air–at least in the short term.

"The first step will be that we will probably restart transmission of TRT," Loeffler said. "But in order to take a channel off the air which was launched in response to thousands of requests from paying local viewers–we would need to see more massive objections.”

He said his station was also waiting for feedback from the Swiss federal communications office–which was discussing the issue with British authorities

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