Turkey’s voters need to feel safe to go to polls, US envoy says
Tolga Tanış – WASHINGTON
CİHAN photoAll voters in Turkey need to feel safe enough to go to the ballot boxes, U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass has said amid debates about the ramifications of moving polling stations in some southeastern districts due to recent violence.
Speaking at the 34th Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations organized in Washington by the American-Turkish Council, Bass said they believed that it was important for all of Turkey’s citizens to have the opportunity to make an informed choice and to exercise their duty to vote.
“It also means voters must feel safe enough to go to the polls, and we reject attempts by the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] or anyone else in Turkey to prevent a secure environment for voters,” Bass said.
For people to exercise their right to vote without any limits, “vibrant, independent media that provides citizens a range of views and perspectives regarding the challenges Turkey faces today, and information on the policy options to address them [are required],” he said.
Bass said they observed alarming news detailing violence, extremism and active conflicts to Turkey’s immediate south and north, referring to acts by PKK militants against Turkish security forces that began in late July following a two-year cease-fire.
“In both capitals, our efforts to address these threats are complicated by an additional challenge: perceptions that the U.S. and Turkey are increasingly headed in different directions – that we have different values and different objectives, with fewer common interests,” said Bass.
“Why, then, do these differences feel so pronounced?” Bass asked in his speech, answering his question by saying that part of it was that there were fewer people, in Washington and in Ankara, “who have a breadth of experience working with each other, on common problems and challenges.”
Bass said the domestic landscapes of the two countries also did not help solve the perceptions, saying the added complications of the renewed conflict with the PKK in Turkey and the social and economic pressures created due to Turkey hosting more than 2 million Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees displaced by conflict and suffering at home made it more difficult to solve issues.