Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed outgoing US Ambassador John Bass for the deteriorating relations between his country and the United States, saying Washington is “sacrificing” its relations with Ankara.
“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice a strategic partner to an ambassador, who doesn’t know his place,” Erdogan told provincial governors in the capital Ankara on Thursday.
He added that the United States was hiding a US Consulate General staffer, suspected of affiliation with a movement led by Turkish opposition cleric, Fethullah Gulen, in the city of Istanbul. Ankara accuses the US-based opposition figure of having masterminded last July’s coup attempt
Erdogan further noted that Turkey stood by its decision to suspend issuing Turkish visas in the United States in response to Washington’s visa services suspension in Turkey.
“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry, but we do not need you,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish leader also criticized Washington’s hesitation to sell arms to Ankara while providing weapons to a “terrorist organization” for free instead; a reference to the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terrorist organization over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
On October 8, the US Embassy in Turkey suspended processing non-immigrant visa applications on the grounds that it needed to “reassess” Turkey’s commitment to ensure security of American diplomatic personnel. Turkey, in response, suspended non-immigrant visa services at all Turkish diplomatic missions in the United States.
The turmoil in the two countries’ relations escalated on October 4, when Turkish authorities arrested a US Consulate General staffer in Istanbul on charges of contacts with members of the Gulen movement.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that the man worked as a contact officer at the Consulate General and made contacts with former police chiefs, Yakup Saygilı, Nazmi Ardiç, Mahir Çakallı and Mehmet Akif Üner, all linked to the Gulen movement.
The US Embassy in Ankara later said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest of the consulate staffer, claiming that the charges against him were “baseless.”
During the July 15, 2016 botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The coup attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later. Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.
Additionally, the Ankara government has outlawed the Gulen movement, branding it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.
“Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless and politically-motivated slanders,” he said soon after the botched coup.
Turkey has frequently called on the US to extradite Gulen, but the demands have not been taken heed of.
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected of having played a role in the failed coup.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.