Top American-Turkish Council officials resign over corruption probe row

Top American-Turkish Council officials resign over corruption probe row

Tolga Tanış WASHINGTON / Hürriyet
Top American-Turkish Council officials resign over corruption probe row

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Jim Holmes was ATC's president since 2005.

Top executives of the main bilateral business association between Turkey and the United States, the Washington-based American-Turkish Council (ATC), announced their resignation June 1, following government pressure in the aftermath of the corruption probe.

The council’s president for 11 years and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Jim Holmes, Deputy Head Canan Büyüküstün and Executive Manager Ayşe Sümer submitted their resignations following Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan’s demand.

The main reason behind the rift was a bulletin that only cited news reports from the website of Today’s Zaman, which were published after the Dec. 17, 2013 probe that implicated four ex-ministers. Today’s Zaman is the English-arm of the main newspaper outlet affiliated with the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by the government of orchestrating the prosecutions.

The bulletin overlooking the investigation drew harsh reactions from Cüneyt Zapsu, an executive member of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAİK) and former adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Zapsu conveyed his disturbance to the highest echelons of the TAİK, which is itself affiliated with Turkey’s top trade association, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB).

Following Zapsu’s intervention, Holmes’ resignation was requested by Babacan, who traveled twice to Washington in the past two months.

The ATC’s executive board stood behind Holmes in the beginning, but surrendered to the growing pressure after officials from both Turkey and the U.S. snubbed the council’s annual congress this month, leading to Holmes announcing his resignation on June 1, along with Büyüküstün and Sümer. Top figures such as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Army Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey had attended the ATC’s congress in previous years, while this year the highest level officials present at the event were the White House’s Trade Representative and the Turkish Foreign Ministry deputy undersecretary.

Both Zapsu and the Prime Ministry’s press office have declined to comment on the resignations.

The government had responded to the investigation by carrying out massive purges within the judiciary, police and bureaucracy.