President Erdoğan openly says US is behind Gülen
The court case in which a former Turkish banking executive was found guilty of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran is a clear indication that the U.S. is behind the Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
“This [case] revealed that the U.S. is behind Pennsylvania,” Erdoğan told reporters travelling with him on his return from France, referring to the large compound where Gülen and his closest aides have lived since 1999.
“It is the U.S. that has allocated 400 acres of land and supported the leader of FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terror Organization] in the U.S. All [Gülen’s] villas are under protection [of the U.S.],” he said.
Turkey has repeatedly demanded Gülen’s extradition from the U.S., submitting what it says are files full of evidence proving his links to the coup attempt, but U.S. jurists have yet to give a positive response.
The troubled relationship between the two allies has come under further strain from the New York court case that found Hakan Atilla, a former deputy general director of the state-owned Halkbank, guilty of evading U.S. sanctions on Iran through gold-for-oil trade operated by Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab.
Ankara accuses the judge of the case, Richard Berman, and his predecessor, Preet Bharara, of “collaborating with FETÖ against Turkey.”
“This is an incident in which the FBI, the CIA and judge Richard Berman have been caught red-handed while carrying out what FETÖ terrorists failed to do through the Dec. 17 and 25 [2013 corruption cases],” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ recently said, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 7.
‘No doubts’ about US role
The fast legal process and conviction on Atilla “leaves no doubt” that the U.S. is behind Gülen, Erdoğan also told reporters, bemoaning the fact that the U.S. has “not taken even a step on Turkey’s demand for the extradition of Gülen, despite dozens of documents and evidence being submitted by the Justice Ministry.”
“But we will continue to pursue him,” he vowed.
Turkey mulls legal action against US
Erdoğan also stated that Turkey “could initiate” legal action over the case of Atilla.
“If necessary, we could file a lawsuit against the U.S. regarding the Hakan Atilla case. Now Halkbank has the right to open a case, because [the New York case] tarnishes the name of our bank internationally,” he said.
The Turkish president blasted the Atilla case as a “political” one marked by “a chain of plots,” noting that a fugitive former law enforcement official who testified to the court confessed that he received $50,000 from the F.B.I. “If that is indeed the case, it means that your entire justice system has collapsed,” he said.
“All these issues have seriously harmed the judicial relationship between Turkey and the U.S. Our cooperation has been seriously hurt,” Erdoğan added.
‘US has own definition of terror’
On anti-terror cooperation with the U.S., the president voiced Ankara’s “disappointment” over the issues of FETÖ and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as the U.S. partners with the latter in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The U.S. uses a self-made definition in the fight against terrorism. For example, some of those accused of being terrorists by the U.S. do not necessarily have any link with terrorism. Recent U.S. statements on Iran and Pakistan should be assessed from this perspective. What does it mean to be putting pressure on certain countries and trying to push them to disintegrate? These are thought-provoking issues,” Erdoğan said.
Ankara sees the YPG as being organically linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as an outlawed terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
Erdoğan said Washington will “never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor,” vowing to “hit them very hard [if they try do so].”
“They should know that we are determined on this. Areas that they consider as part of the terror corridor could turn out to be their graves,” he said, recalling Turkey’s cross-border Euphrates Shield Operation into northeast Syria, which started at the end of 2016 and which brought an area of around 2,000 square kilometers under Turkish control.
Erdoğan also called on the Turkish media to look at the issue of U.S. cooperation with the YPG “from the Turkish perspective, not from the U.S. one.”