Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford has met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in an attempt to mend Washington’s strained ties with its strategic ally in the aftermath of last month’s attempted coup.
On July 15, a faction of Turkish armed forces used tanks and attack helicopters in a failed attempt to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Relations between the US and Turkey soured after Washington questioned Ankara’s strong reaction to the failed putsch and refused to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a US-based opposition figure whom Erdogan accuses of plotting the coup.
After Monday’s meeting with Dunford, the Turkish PM’s office said in a statement that the top American general had condemned the coup and his visit to the country was aimed to support democracy in Turkey.
“It is important that the United States, our friend and ally, display a clear and decisive stance against this terrorist coup attempt against our nation and democracy,” Yildirim said.
Dunford, who is the first international leader to visit Turkey since the coup, said his meetings with Yildirim and other Turkish officials, including Chief of the General Staff General Hulusi Akar, were positive and “not accusatory at all.”
Dunford also paid a visit to the Incirlik Air Base, a strategic platform in the city of Adana which houses a huge NATO nuclear arsenal and is used by the US to carry out airstrikes against Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
During the coup attempt, Turkish officials blocked access to the base and detained its commander General Bekir Ercan Van as well as more than a dozen lower-ranking officers on charges of complicity in the attempted coup.
However, Dunford told media that despite differences with Turkey in the fight against Daesh, “we will have all the access we need to Incirlik” and other US military bases across Turkey.
The top military officer is on a Middle East tour. He stopped in Iraq before heading to Turkey.
Upon his arrival in the Turkish capital, Dunford was met with angry protesters who held banners reading: “Coup plotter Dunford get out of Turkey” and “Dunford go home. Send us Fethullah.”