Top Turkish, US diplomats speak after arrest of consulate staff
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the phone on Oct. 7, after a local staff member stationed in the Istanbul Consulate was arrested on charges of espionage.
The phone conversation between the two ministers took place upon Tillerson’s request, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Speaking to reporters in Afyonkarahisar, where the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is holding a strategic planning camp,
Çavuşoğlu confirmed the conversation. He said they discussed developments in Iraq and Syria, as well as “bilateral consulate affairs,” without giving further details.
“I speak with Rex Tillerson once every 10 days. We maintain a good dialogue,” he said.
The phone conversation comes at a moment when relations between the two allies are going through severe turbulence, amid the arrest of consulate staff member Metin Topuz over alleged links with some leading members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), accused of being behind last year’s bloody coup attempt.
In an interview with France 24, Çavuşoğlu said he asked about the details of the case on Topuz to judicial officials in Istanbul and there is “serious evidence” of his links to the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
“Nobody in Turkey can be jailed, arrested or detained without serious preliminary findings and evidence, or without serious accusation. At the end of the day, it’s not politicians, myself or the U.S. State Department who will give the verdict but the independent judiciary,” he stated.
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, in a meeting with reporters in Istanbul on Oct. 6, expressed his disturbance at the arrest of Topuz, a longtime employee of the consulate.
“I am deeply disturbed that some people in the Turkish government prefer to try this case through media outlets rather than properly pursuing the case in a court of law before a judge. That does not strike me as pursuing justice, it seems to me more a pursuit of vengeance,” Bass said.