Turkish PM threatens to sue US diplomats over leaked claims
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 12/1/2010 12:00:00 AM |
In a harshly worded response to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, PM Erdoğan has said he will sue US envoys he accused of making false claims against him.
In a harshly worded response to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday that he would file legal action again U.S. envoys he accused of making false claims against him.
Speaking during a municipal ceremony in Ankara, Erdoğan called on the U.S. administration to take action to discipline the diplomats who “slandered” him in the leaked State Department documents.
“This is the United States’ problem, not ours... Those who have slandered us will be crushed under these claims, will be finished and will disappear,” the prime minister said in his first comprehensive comments about the WikiLeaks release.
“My friends are working [to take action] against these diplomats in terms of national and international law. We will continue this process there. Thereafter, they [the diplomats] have to think [about the consequences],” Erdoğan said. “We have discussed these issues with the U.S. administration. They have extended their apologies, but it’s not enough. They have to take all necessary measures against these diplomats.”
One leaked cable that was signed by former U.S. envoy to Ankara Eric Edelman claimed that Erdoğan had eight secret accounts in Swiss banks, a claim the American diplomat said had been made to the U.S. Embassy by two contacts. He did not give further evidence. Other documents accused Erdoğan of reaping personal gain from a billion-dollar privatization.
In addition to criticizing the U.S. administration and its envoys, Erdoğan also slammed the Turkish media and the head of the main opposition for publicizing the allegations.
Saying he does not have a single penny in Swiss banks, Erdoğan said: “Now I tell the opposition leaders that the moment they prove otherwise, I will resign. But will they still sit in their places [if they cannot prove it]?”
Calling the opposition “opportunist” for repeating slanderous remarks made by foreign diplomats, Erdoğan accused his political rivals of being dishonorable, while also lashing out at media outlets that reported the claims.
“An honorable media [outlet] or media member should first ask the person these slanders are made against [about the claims],” he said. “If the subject is the prime minister, you should ask: ‘Esteemed prime minister, is this true?’ If the prime minister tells you, ‘No, I have nothing to do with it,’ then you should not write about it. But if you write it without asking, without investigating [the validity of the claim], with the purpose of defaming, that is immorality, worthlessness.”
Accusing Edelman and other former U.S. diplomats of expressing their personal hatred against him and his government, Erdoğan repeated his statement that the opposition’s use of these claims for political purposes was shameful. He also called on the public to wait and see what the purpose was behind the leaks as the situation was still very new.
[HH] PM recalls the past
The WikiLeaks release is not the first time he has been made the subject of such slanders, Erdoğan said, noting that a journalist who claimed the prime minister had $1 billion in personal assets was now in prison as a suspect in the ongoing Ergenekon case. The journalist Erdoğan referred to is Tuncay Özkan, who has been in prison for the last two years without being convicted. Ergenekon is the name of an alleged gang accused of plotting to overthrow the government in 2003 and 2004.
“One billion dollars... That is more than the budget of the Istanbul municipality at that time,” Erdoğan said. “And now this gentleman is in [prison]. There are still media [outlets] and columnists following the same path.”
[HH] Swift reaction from Kılıçdaroğlu
The head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, swiftly reacted to Erdoğan’s remarks, saying it was the United States, and not him, that made the allegations and that it was not right for the prime minister to direct his criticism at the opposition.
“To whom do those allegations belong? Isn’t it the United States? Why doesn’t [Erdoğan] ask his questions to them instead of asking us?” CHP chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters in the northwestern province of Bursa. “What did I say? I said the allegations regarding the prime minister are grave and he has to make a satisfactory explanation for them.”
Noting that other ministers had denied allegations against them via written statements, Kılıçdaroğlu said Erdoğan needed to respond in a more consistent and measured way.
“It is the United States that the prime minister should show reaction to and settle accounts with,” the CHP leader said. “If he does not have the power to do that, it is another issue. It is not right to say, ‘I can’t settle accounts with the United States, so let the target be the opposition.’”