The timing couldn’t have been worse for a new Turkish Airlines flight between Atlanta and Istanbul. Just days after the first voyage arrived with great fanfare at the Atlanta airport, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, warned American travelers that police forces in the country were on high alert for possible ISIS terrorist attacks at Ataturk Commemorations and Youth and Sports Day celebrations May 19.
The embassy pointed to news reports citing a central government directive urging provincial authorities to beef up security for the events. It also urged vigilance ahead of May 22 demonstrations.
Turkey has faced a series of attacks in multiple cities by Islamic State actors, which the country calls daesh, and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a rebel organization known as the PKK, along with other Kurdish groups. Ninety-five people were killed in twin bombings of a train station in Ankara in October.
Speaking in Atlanta Tuesday, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. said the turmoil is affecting travel to the country and that this year is “gone” for tourism purposes. The government is looking at ways to compensate travel agencies, hotels and other businesses that have lost business, said Serdar Kılıç.
“This year is gone, not only for Turkey but for Europe,” he said, noting that terrorists have shown the capacity to strike even places like Brussels and Paris.
“Not only Turkey — we are not safe in Washington DC, in New York or Atlanta for that matter. Terrorism can strike anywhere or anytime. Since we are in the vicinity of the ongoing crisis, of course we are affected the most,” Mr. Kılıç said.
Miguel Southwell, the Atlanta airport’s general manager, echoed that sentiment at the Turkish Airlines celebration dinner Monday night.
“As far as terrorism, it’s a threat everywhere,” he told Global Atlanta, pointing out the need to engage in deeper trade ties with Turkey’s growing economy.
Mr. Kılıç added that these attacks are not daily occurrences and that this shouldn’t be one of the top issues brought up when Turkey is discussed.
He expressed hope that next year would be better, but only if the international community acts in a concerted way to address the root cause of ISIS’s rise, which in his view is the instability caused by the civil war fomented by Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Earlier in May, Turkish Airlines posted a massive quarterly loss of $421 million as security concerns tamped down demand.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. cited security concerns in suspending a seasonal flight from New York to Istanbul scheduled to start in May.