US refutes media reports of embassy staff lobbying against Turkish government
ANKARA / WASHINGTON
Ricciardone said on Dec 22 his country had nothing to do with the anti-graft operation. DAILY NEWS photoThe U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Dec. 25 refuted media reports suggesting some embassy staff members had meetings with civil society organizations to lobby against the Turkish government.
“Allegations in some media outlets that target the American embassy staff do not reflect the truth. If needed to repeat, nobody should imperil relations between Turkey and the United States with this intentional slander,” a written statement from the U.S. embassy said.
Dailies Sabah and Yeni Şafak quoted today Abdullah Değer, chairman of the Ankara Young Businessmen’s Association, as saying a U.S. Embassy staff member told him they were launching a lobbying campaign against the government and asked for support in a meeting at the time when the graft operation began Dec. 17.
The embassy statement came hours after a U.S. State Department spokesperson criticized media reports that the U.S. ambassador to Turkey or other U.S. officials were involved in a set-up against the Turkish government over recent corruption accusations.
“The continued baseless attacks by some elements of the Turkish media against U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, other senior U.S. officials, international media representatives, and private American citizens and groups are deeply disturbing,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a release on Dec. 24.
“We have made known to Turkish authorities our concerns about such allegations regarding American officials. Turkish officials have assured us that they do not credit such false accusations against individual American officials, including Ambassador Ricciardone,” said Psaki.
Phone conversation with Sinirlioğlu
Ambassador Ricciardone expressed concerns during a previously scheduled meeting on Dec. 18 with a deputy undersecretary on Turkish Foreign Ministry, one day after the corruption probe launched.
The Ambassador conveyed to the Turkish official that they should be assured the U.S. “does not and cannot get involved” with Turkish internal politics. “Please don’t draw us into your family fight here,” said the ambassador.
Ricciardone did not pay any visit to the Foreign Ministry since then, but had a phone conversation with Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu on Dec. 21, on the same day when some pro-government media outlets claimed a meeting between EU ambassadors in Ankara and the U.S. ambassador, who allegedly said “Now you are watching the collapse of an empire.”
The ambassador expressed unease over media reports, as well as about remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who strongly targeted Ricciardone.
“In recent days, interestingly, some ambassadors have been engaging in provocative actions. I am calling out to them from Samsun: Do your own job,” Erdoğan said last week in Samsun. “We do not have to keep you in our country.”
The Istanbul-based operation that was launched on Dec. 17 has led to the arrest of two dozens of high-profile civil servants, politicians and businessmen, including the sons of two key Cabinet ministers and the head of state-owned lender Halkbank.
Only five days after the huge graft probe began, some pro-government media hit almost the same headline on Dec. 21 and claimed Ricciardone told a group of EU ambassadors, “You will watch the fall of an empire,” on Dec. 17, the very first day of the police’s corruption operation.
Ricciardone, however, said on Dec. 22 his country had nothing to do with the anti-graft operation.