Top Turkish, American diplomats to discuss Gülen case in D.C.
Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
AP photoThe top diplomats of Turkey and the U.S. are expected to meet in Washington this week to continue discussions on the extradition of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey that cost the lives of at least 208 people.
The face-to-face talk between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to take place on the sidelines of an international meeting on the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on July 20 and 21. Along with Çavuşoğlu and Kerry, the foreign ministers of some of the other anti-ISIL coalition countries will also be present in Washington.
The foreign ministers will discuss the current situation in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria and the next steps in efforts to degrade and defeat the jihadists.
However, the meeting will also be an important opportunity for the Turkish foreign minister to exchange views on developments in Turkey in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt. Çavuşoğlu was expected to inform his counterparts on the coup attempt and its perpetrators during his bilateral meetings with the participant countries. The meetings will come after the EU and European countries urged Turkey to stay within the boundaries of law while investigating the mutiny.
In this context, Çavuşoğlu’s meeting with host Kerry will be an important one, especially with regards to the ongoing quarrel over the role of Gülen and his organization in staging the coup attempt on July 15. Turkish leadership has become more vocal in its demand from the U.S. for the extradition of Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999.
The two diplomats held a phone conversation over the weekend to exchange views on the situation in Turkey, during which Kerry urged his counterpart about public remarks by officials who claimed the U.S. was behind the coup attempt.
Yıldırım: Friendship in question
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım reiterated Turkey’s call to Washington on July 18 after a cabinet meeting, saying “Turkey may question its friendship with the U.S.” should Turkey’s demand not be addressed.
“Even questioning our friendship may be brought to the agenda here. Nonetheless, our Justice Ministry is conducting the necessary work,” Yıldırım said.
The premier also added there was no better evidence than the July 15 coup attempt for the extradition of Gülen, as Kerry had earlier requested Ankara send evidence to support Gülen’s extradition.
“Is there better evidence than this? We will be a little bit disappointed if our friends say ‘show us the evidence’ while there are members of this organization which is trying to destroy a state and a person who instructs it,” Yıldırım said.
Kerry: Evidence, not allegations
Despite insistent statements from Turkish officials on Gülen’s extradition, Kerry said on July 18 he had made clear to Turkey that it must provide genuine evidence able to withstand scrutiny when requesting the extradition of Gülen. “The U.S. has a formal process for dealing with extradition requests; Turkey must send evidence, not allegations,” Kerry told a news conference in Brussels.
In further remarks, Kerry highlighted the ongoing investigation into the perpetrators of the failed coup attempt and urged the Turkish government to uphold the rule of law, adding Washington supported efforts to bring those involved to justice. “We stand squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey,” he told a news conference after meeting EU counterparts in Brussels. “But we also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country,” he added.
“We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that,” he said.