POLITICS > Turkey, US avoid major crisis, but ties still on tightrope

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish and American diplomats rush to put new diplomatic fires caused by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the Turkish leader threatened to expel Envoy Ricciardone from Turkey

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US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone issued a written statement to deny some media reports’ claims alleging him to be involved in graft probe. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone issued a written statement to deny some media reports’ claims alleging him to be involved in graft probe. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Turkish and U.S. diplomats narrowly avoided a major crisis over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s implication that Washington’s ambassador could be expelled over provocative actions, but bilateral ties are still on a tightrope as government officials and pro-government media seem unlikely to cease a campaign against “external forces” behind an ongoing graft probe.

Washington has seriously warned Ankara that a repetition of such a smear campaign against the U.S. and its diplomats could affect bilateral relations, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. 

Ties between the two allies were in dire straits since spring over a number of disagreements on major foreign policy issues, with Syria at the top of the list.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) brutal crackdown on the Gezi Park protestors in June and the inclinations toward more authoritarian rule have put additional fuel on bilateral relations.

Only five days after the huge graft probe began, some pro-government media hit almost the same headline on Dec. 21 and claimed that Envoy Francis Ricciardone told a group of EU ambassadors that “You will watch the fall of an empire” on the very first day of the police’s corruption operation.

Although the embassy denied categorically the reports, Erdoğan strongly targeted the ambassador at a rally in Samsun.

“In recent days, interestingly, some ambassadors have been engaging in provocative actions. I am calling out to them from Samsun: Do your own business,” he said. “We do not have to keep you in our country.”

US Ambassador adopts mince tone

After Erdoğan’s harsh remarks, Ricciardone issued a written statement to once again deny the reports and urged that “nobody should put Turkey-U.S. relations in danger with unfounded claims.”

In the meantime, hectic diplomatic traffic was carried out between the diplomats of the two countries under the direction of Ricciardone and Feridun Sinirlioğlu, undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry.

Washington expressed its deep disturbance with both media reports and Erdoğan’s accusations against its envoy and demanded that a rectification be made given the impression given by the statements.

The Foreign Ministry subsequently released a statement, noting the ministry’s satisfaction with the U.S. ambassador’s explanation. “We find the U.S. ambassador’s statement sufficient. There is no plan to summon him to the ministry on the issue,” read the statement.
In addition to the ministry’s statement, AKP spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik said, “We have to trust in the statement [of the U.S. ambassador].”

Both statements were regarded as “satisfactory” by Washington as well but it underlined once again that the U.S. has nothing to do with Turkish internal affairs and that it does want to be “drawn into a family fight.”

After the statements issued by Ricciardone, the ministry and Çelik, Erdoğan did not repeat his claims about the envoy. Yesterday, Erdoğan referred to international plans against his government but did not give any country’s name.

For many in Ankara, the government’s decision to step back in this case is a result of its evaluation that confronting Washington in this period would not be wise for the government.

In the meantime, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his American counterpart, John Kerry, exchanged a phone call late Dec. 20, but the Turkish minister reportedly did not touch on Ricciardone’s “provocative actions” during the call.


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Notice on comments

Halil Ibrahim

12/25/2013 12:40:07 AM

@ilker avni No proud or full blooded Turk would try to soil relations with a strategic partner of over 50 years and create obstacles in a region where Turkey has few reliable partners. I am not saying that I approve of all American foreign policy, or that I support the occupation of the Palestinian people. I am just saying your a hypocrite with no evidence. If you like Russia Iran and China so much why haven't how come you don't live there?


12/24/2013 4:23:48 PM

american american, you seem to be confusing the Turkish State with some criminals involved in IP theft. If the Americans didn't trust the Turks, why is Turkey still in NATO and equipped with sophisticated American weapons? The answer to technology sharing is in Ken Alden's post at 12/24/2013 3:58:43 AM. @K M, I agree both are futile tasks, but at least with former I can have some fun. The latter takes one to the realms of telekinesis and interest rate lobbies; areas beyond my comprehension.


12/24/2013 4:04:23 PM

Ken Alden, Soviet threat to Turkey didn't end in 1947, it was there throughout the cold war, especially after Russia's nuclear bomb in 1949. USSR wanted to export its revolution and it wanted access to the Med. Sea, so Turkey was always on its radar. Turkey fought in the Korean war mainly to be able to join NATO against the Soviet threat. I agree with your views on current relations, but if Turkey leaves the western sphere, Russia will dominate Turkey to control the energy lines to Europe.


12/24/2013 3:34:17 PM

ilker avni, what technology is China sharing with Turkey exactly? Is it more than the technology shared with Turkey which allows her to build F-16 fighters, Y-129 helicopters and F-35 parts? Should Turkey, on the back of a missile deal, just "kick out the americans and leave nato", turning its back on her allies which protected her for 6 decades? Don't tell me to wake up and smell the coffee, tell your idol, Erdogan the "Manifiscent"; he seems to think NATO and EU are better for TR than SCO is.

Brit in Turkey

12/24/2013 1:22:26 PM

turkic voice: As I posted elsewhere - How do the Chinese know they landed in the same place as the Americans did? The moon, after all, is quite a big place.

Halil Ibrahim

12/24/2013 7:32:02 AM

@ilker avni. The real crux of your argument is pure racism. Turkish people are fully capable of being corrupt just like any other human being, even if it's Martians telekinesis controlling us, it doesn't matter, unless we pull together and go through the workings of our legal and financial systems and root out all of the worms, we will never be able to trace or prevent an external influence. You are just making it worse, your only helping those who you claim to be exposing.

Ken Alden

12/24/2013 5:34:51 AM

@Baris, Immediately after WW2 USSR put tremendous pressure on Turkey, demanding a Naval presence on Bosphourus, also return of Kars and Ardahan procinces, ceded by Russia at Brest-litovsk in 1917. Al that came to s stop, when the US US Super Battleship Missouri nad its support Fleet visited Turkey in 1947. Prently two Nations are at peace, Turkey needs Russian Markets for her Industriesdomestic goods, Russia need Turkey for its Northstream Pipeline in Turkish waters & other considerastions.

ilker avni

12/24/2013 5:16:15 AM

@Halil ibrahim I am not a markist or a islamist,I am proud full blooded TURK.Turkey thanks to american nuclear weapons is a front line country,why is america allowed to use turkey to strike russia when it wont share technology with turkey.Turkeys major trading partner is russia not america,american trade sanctions on iran has harmed turkeys as well as iran,america is supposed to be our ally,it acts only for its own intrests even at the expense of its suposed ally,poll found america untrustworthy

Ken Alden

12/24/2013 3:58:43 AM

@Ilker A. The one & only mnfg. facility US Gov't owns is the Nuke Manufacture. all other Arms Mnfg. is owned by pvt. corp's who also ownt the Intelectual property to their products and wont trade that, i.e. give away their stock in trade, to Turkey or anyone else. It's true, USA has special relations with Israel, many US citizens and scientist are Jewish, like Nuclear scientist or Admr. Ryckoever, father of US Nuke Sub'e Fleet.Then there is also a US Jew serving lifet sentence as a Israeli Spy!

turkic voice

12/24/2013 12:40:00 AM

once Americas spying evidence came up this man should have been sent home, all American foreign ministers should be sent back home around the world as they are not trustworthy after the spying situation. we should only accept a American foreign minister with a Turkish background.
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