Perry makes no U-turn on ‘terror’ row
Republican presidential hopeful Perry defiant over his Turkey comments. AFP photoU.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry refused Jan. 17 to disavow his earlier remark that Turkey was run by “terrorists” and instead stepped up his criticism of Ankara, shaking off a rare intervention by the State Department.
Asked on CNN if he had misspoken in Jan. 16’s Republican campaign debate, the Texas governor said, “Not at all,” before accusing Turkish leaders of condoning honor killings and saying Turkey was “not a country that America wants to be associating with.”
A Turkish government report last year showed a drastic increase in the number of honor killings, the slaying of a relative who is perceived to have brought shame on one’s family. The Turkish government changed the law in 2005 to increase sentences for those convicted of the crime, but activists have said more effort is needed to stop such killings.
In an unusual intervention after Perry’s remarks, the U.S. State Department waded in Jan. 17, rejecting Perry’s description of Turkey as country run by “terrorists” and hailing the NATO member as a close ally.
“We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Turkey is one of the oldest members of NATO, and it’s been a stalwart member of NATO and a strong ally to the United States. We stand by our relationship.”
Namık Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, said Perry’s description of Turkey simply does not exist in reality.
“I am disappointed and concerned that Turkey and its time-tested ties of alliance, partnership and friendship with the United States became the object of misplaced and ill-advised criticism,” Tan said in a statement.
Tan said Turkey receives no U.S. aid and has created thousands of jobs in Texas.
In response to a question by a Fox News moderator who alleged that Ankara had militarily threatened Israel and Cyprus, Perry said during the Jan. 16 presidential debate in South Carolina that Turkey should be kicked out of NATO.
“Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes, [they should be kicked out],” Perry said.
Perry’s campaign team said the candidate was responding to the Fox News questioner asking about issues such as violence against civilian women. A spokesman said there was a need to “send a message” to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
“Turkey can be a valuable ally, but the actions of the current government undermine that country’s role in an organization like NATO,” Ray Sullivan, Perry’s communications director, said in an emailed statement. “We need to send the message to Turkey that internal violence, association with terrorist groups and radical Islamist influence are inconsistent with being a NATO ally and positive player in world affairs.”
Turkey said it had joined NATO when Perry was just 2 years old and cited its long history of fighting terrorism, including co-chairing the Global Counterterrorism Forum with the U.S.
Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.