Turkey summons US diplomat after embassy ‘likes’ tweet about MHP leader’s health
Turkey has summoned a U.S. diplomat to its Foreign Ministry after the U.S. embassy’s Twitter account “liked” a tweet speculating the health of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who has recently fallen ill.
The tweet said Turkey should be ready for a political realm without Bahçeli, the 71-year-old ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The tweet was posted by journalist Ergun Babahan, a FETÖ suspect who fled Turkey following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Babahan’s tweet said the “people of Turkey should start getting used to politics without MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli.”
The embassy posted an apology on Twitter late on Oct. 6.
“Earlier today our Embassy Twitter account ‘liked’ an unrelated post in error. We regret the mistake and apologize for any confusion,” it said. The like was also removed from the embassy’s page.
But Ankara has reacted harshly. The Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in Ankara and asked for clarification.
“Freudian slip? The US Embassy has no business meddling in Turkey’s domestic affairs. @StateDept must investigate this incident and discipline those responsible. US Embassy ‘likes’ post by FETÖ-linked figure claiming Bahçeli’s ‘end is near’,” Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of the Presidency, posted on his Twitter account.
The MHP is the ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP. The two parties entered the parliamentary and presidential elections in an alliance last year, which allowed them to attain a majority in parliament together.
The AKP said on Twitter that the user who had posted the message was wanted for links to FETÖ.
Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the AKP, said the U.S. State Department and embassy needed to investigate the issue and an apology would not suffice.
“It shows that some people employed in the embassy are making a special effort to damage the relations between the two countries,” Celik said on Twitter.
“The United States embassy needs to try to understand Turkey not through people linked with terrorist organizations but through people who can conduct proper analysis,” he said.
“Our deputy minister met with the U.S. charge d’affaires. They told that it was a mistake and that they had corrected it later. After we showed the necessary reactions, we told them that they should correct them more clearly,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters.
Semih Yalçın, deputy head of the MHP, said on Twitter late on Oct. 6 that Bahçeli has recovered from his illness and would return to work in the coming week. He accused the U.S. administration of supporting members of FETÖ.
The relations between the NATO allies have been under pressure in recent years over a range of issues, including Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, differences in policy in Syria and the detention of local U.S. consulate employees and citizens in Turkey.