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UK government threatens Scottish leader after meeting Turkish president

Newly appointed British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has threatened to withdraw Foreign Office support for Scottish ministers after Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf met the Turkish president without the presence of UK officials.

In a letter to the Scottish National Party (SNP) government, Cameron said it was a breach of protocol for Yousaf to have discussed Gaza and other matters with Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the COP28 summit in Dubai on Dec. 1. The two leaders share common grounds on Gaza, where Israeli air and ground attacks have killed nearly 18,000 Palestinians, and call for an immediate cease-fire.

Cameron warned the SNP’s external affairs secretary, saying he would take a harder approach to the breach.

“The absence of an FCDO [Foreign Office] official at this meeting contravenes the protocols in our guidance on FCDO support to devolved government ministers’ overseas visits,” the letter shared by the BBC read.

The foreign secretary said the meeting breached devolution protocols as a UK official was not given “sufficient advance notice” of the location of the meeting to be able to attend.

However, a spokesperson for Yousaf told media that a Foreign Office official had been invited but “was elsewhere at the time it was convenient for the Turkish president to meet.”

James Cleverly, the former foreign secretary, issued a similar warning when Yousaf met the Icelandic prime minister without UK officials in the summer.

Yousaf has been highly critical of the UK government’s full support to Israel and its military invasion into the Gaza Strip.

The Scottish leader’s in-laws were trapped in Gaza for about a month before being evacuated and returning back to Scotland. The British government’s reluctance to meet or discuss the matter with Yousaf at the time was heavily criticized in Scotland.