Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duchess defends undercover Turkey trip

  • Story Highlights
  • Duchess of York says she had no apologies over undercover trip to Turkey
  • Sarah Ferguson was accompanied by daughter Princess Eugenie
  • Pair involved in investigation aimed at exposing the state of orphanages

LONDON, England -- The mother of Princess Eugenie said in comments released Thursday that she had no apologies for the young British royal's undercover trip to Turkey aimed at exposing the state of government-run orphanages there.

Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Britain's Prince Andrew, said she and her daughter participated in the investigation -- which was due to be broadcast Thursday by a British television channel -- out of concern for the children, not out of any anti-Turkish feeling.

"I went as a mum, and I went because those children are silent whispers," the former Duchess of York told reporters. "Quite frankly I'm very happy with courage to stand by that film."

The show, called "Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission," follows Ferguson and her eldest daughter, Princess Beatrice, 20, to Romania, while another part of the show focuses on Ferguson's trip to Turkey with 18-year-old Eugenie. It was due to be broadcast on Britain's ITV1.

The Turkish part of the program -- which appears to show children tied to their beds or left in cots at an orphanage near the capital city of Ankara -- has raised the ire of Turkish authorities, one of whom accused Ferguson of smearing the country's reputation.

Nimet Cubukcu, the minister in charge of women and family affairs, said the television program was timed to air at around the same time as the European Union is scheduled to release a report on Turkey's progress toward membership.

Ferguson denied a journalist's suggestion that she was working at cross-purposes with other members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II, who visited Turkey in May to underscore Britain's support for Turkey's EU membership.

Ferguson said she was not trying to be political and noted that she was no longer part of the royal family -- she severed the royal tie when she was divorced in 1996.

"I would never in a million years believe myself to be political in any way, shape or form," she said. "I am apolitical and multi-faith. And I certainly support 100 percent her majesty (the queen), more than anyone else in my world."

Ferguson suggested that Prince Andrew had approved of her trip and that Britain's government had cleared it.

"I don't do anything without the blessing of their (Eugenie and Beatrice's) father," she said. "So that must include permission from the Foreign Office and permission from all the other sources..."

The Foreign Office said it had helped arrange security for the Ferguson's children in Turkey and Romania but stressed that the trip was a private one.

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