ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News) – Amid the ongoing visa and arrest crisis between Ankara and Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that if the United States does not accept Turkey the way it is “then we do not need you.”
Calling on Washington to “return to reason,” Erdoğan repeated his claim that it was U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass who prompted the current crisis.
“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry but we do not need you,” Erdoğan said, addressing a meeting of provincial governors in the capital Ankara.
“The decision taken by the U.S. Consulate and the statements made after it are not related to the truth or reality. A junta within the American bureaucracy that is related to the previous administration aims to sabotage relations between the new administration and Turkey,” he added.
Ankara and Washington are going through their worst bilateral crisis in years after U.S. Istanbul Consulate official Metin Topuz was arrested last week, prompting the U.S. to announce on October 8 that it has stopped issuing non-immigrant visas in Turkey. In return, Ankara imposed tit-for-tat measures implementing the same measures.
Erdoğan’s comments came a day after Ambassador Bass stated that the decision for visa suspension was taken by the U.S. government, which also confirmed that the decision was taken in coordination with the State Department, the White House and the National Security Council.
“Our ambassadors tend not to do things unilaterally,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on October 10.
Nevertheless, the Turkish president again claimed that it was Bass who prompted the current visa suspension crisis.
“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable that the U.S. has sacrificed a strategic partner like Turkey to a presumptuous ambassador,” Erdoğan said.
“If an ambassador in Ankara is governing the great United States, it is a shame. They should have told him he could not act like that to a strategic ally. But they could not do that,” he added.
In the same speech Erdoğan once again criticized Washington’s hesitation to sell arms to Turkey, while instead providing arms to the “terrorist organization” for free.
He also said Ankara will stand behind its decision to mutually suspend visa services with Washington “if the U.S. secretary of state and the president defend the ambassador’s step.”
“Turkey has acted based on the principle of reciprocity, following unjust and non-proportional steps taken against our citizens with the suspension of visa applications. Turkey is never a party that extends a problem,” Erdoğan added.
“Our wish for our interlocutors to return to reason and calm, abandoning steps that would harm our friendship and alliance,” he said.
Erdoğan also stated that the detention process of the U.S. consulate officer Topuz “is ongoing within the constitutional framework.”
“The legal process on the individual working at the U.S. Istanbul mission as a local personnel, who is the citizen of our country and does not hold any diplomatic immunity, is ongoing within legal practices, agreements and the Vienna Convention,” he said.
President Erdoğan also referred to ongoing disputes between Ankara and Washington regarding the case of Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, currently facing trial in the U.S. on charges of violating sanctions on Iran, in a case that has also embroiled former minister Zafer Çağlayan and state-run Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla. Other points of contention are the imprisonment of Erdoğan’s personal security guards over their brawl with protesters in Washington in May 2017 and Ankara’s demand for the extradition of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.
“On one hand you say you are the mainland of democracy but on the other hand you defend, in your own terms, the rights of an individual related to FETÖ who has no diplomatic qualification in your consulate. Meanwhile, you try also to save your pastor who has been arrested in İzmir, even though it is clear he has relations with FETÖ,” he said, referring to Andrew Brunson, a Presbyterian minister from North Carolina who has been imprisoned for almost one year.
“On the one hand, you arrest the deputy manager of my bank who has not committed any crime, but on the other hand my citizen [Zarrab] has been in prison in the U.S. for two years without crime, trying to use him as a confessor. Then it was decided to order the detention of my 13 guards, some of whom have never even been to the U.S. Is this democracy? Is this justice?” Erdoğan added.