TURKEY tr-diplomacy

Turkish PM calls US envoy a 'rookie' ambassador

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 2/18/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls Francis Joseph Ricciardone, the US’s new ambassador to Turkey, a ‘rookie’ regarding his remarks on press freedom in Turkey. ‘He does not know Turkey, he does not have any idea which laws there are, and then he walks into a trap and makes a statement,’ Erdoğan says

New U.S. envoy to Ankara Francis J. Ricciardone is a “rookie” ambassador, the Turkish prime minister said Friday, following the diplomat’s remarks on press freedom in Turkey, which were much criticized by government officials.

“He does not know Turkey, he does not have any idea what laws there are, and then he walks into a trap and makes a statement. First wait, research, ask what it is, and learn what the judiciary will do on this, what will be the outcome. [Not doing] this is called a ‘rookie’ ambassador, this is inexperience,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his party members Friday.

“Is there any article in the Constitution bringing immunity to members of the press, of which we are not aware?” Erdoğan asked. “Are media organizations exempt from everything, exempt from tax, exempt from all sorts of crime? Can they not be interrogated, tried?”

Addressing Ricciardone, the prime minister said some outsiders believed these things and talked about them, “even if it was not their duty.”

Asked by reporters about his opinion on a recent raid on Oda TV, a dissident online news portal, Ricciardone made a statement at a reception late Tuesday that seemed to accuse the government of hypocrisy on the issue of press freedom. “On the one hand there exists a stated policy of support for a free press. On the other hand, journalists are put under detention. We are trying to make sense of this. That is why we are asking you,” he said, adding that he did not know about the charges against the website or any details on the matter.

The offices of Oda TV and the homes of its owner, the well-known journalist Soner Yalçın, and several staff members were raided Monday by Istanbul police based on suspected links to an alleged coup plot.

Ricciardone’s remarks drew criticism from government officials, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who said it is not right for an ambassador to pass judgment on an ongoing criminal investigation. Davutoğlu said this view was transmitted to Ricciardone on Wednesday by Foreign Minister Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.

The U.S. envoy stepped back from his initial comments Thursday, saying he had not commented on the merits of a particular case but said as a foreigner there were certain things he “was trying to understand.”

Ricciardone has meanwhile not yet received a response to his request for an appointment to meet Prime Minister Erdoğan. “Every ambassador asks for appointments with many officials to introduce himself. However there is no scheduled meeting with Erdoğan yet,” an official from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday.



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