US envoy under fire over southeast remarks

US envoy under fire over southeast remarks

US envoy under fire over southeast remarks

DHA photo

Ankara’s anger against U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass over his expression of concern regarding the appointment of trustees to 28 local municipalities due to alleged terror links continues to simmer, with Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu describing Bass’ remarks as “provocative.” 

“It is not right for any country to draw the road map of another independent country. We are saddened by the remarks [of the ambassador] that, in a way, provoke and try to direct us,” Soylu told reporters on Sept 14. 

His remarks followed criticism of Bass by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ. Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu also issued a complaint about the ambassador to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a phone conversation late on Sept. 13, diplomatic sources said. 

Ankara’s reaction was sparked over the weekend after the U.S. Embassy issued a written statement following the government’s announcement that it had appointed trustees to 28 municipalities over their alleged links to terrorist organizations. Some 24 of the municipalities were run by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and allegedly linked with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) while four municipalities were replaced over links with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), blamed for the July 15 coup attempt. 

“We hope that any appointment of trustees will be temporary and that local citizens will soon be permitted to choose new local officials in accordance with Turkish law,” read the U.S. embassy statement on Sept 11. 

‘Necessary reply’

Interior Minister Soylu said Washington should speak with Ambassador Bass over his “unacceptable” comments. 

“We gave the necessary reply to the ambassador on the same day but the real response is being given by the people: Through their unity, togetherness and brotherhood,” he added. 

Soylu also stressed the importance of a “joint stance” against terrorism across the world, with adding FETÖ to this fight along with the PKK and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

‘Double standards’

“Encouraging terrorism stands as a test of sincerity for all countries who signed this joint [anti-terror] declaration. I should express that this is unacceptable. We know what happened in the U.S. after Sept 11,” Soylu said, referring to the U.S.’s “war on terror.” 

“We are fulfilling our responsibilities toward all countries in the fight against terrorists. We either hand over terrorists in our territories if they demand their extradition or we don’t allow them to enter to our country in the first place. We even don’t wait for a court decision,” he added, indirectly referring to Ankara’s demands for the U.S. to extradite U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

“The implementation of this double standard against us leads to certain thoughts. But this won’t change our outlook on issues,” he added.

Along with the government, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has also harshly criticized Ambassador Bass for “interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs,” saying the country is “not just another state of the U.S.”