The United States has denounced the removal of a Turkish diplomat and five other diplomats from their posts in Ankara.
US ambassador John Bass said on Monday that the US strongly condemns the recent diplomatic action taken against the Turkish ambassador to Washington, the US ambassador and other US officials and employees in Turkey.
Turkey has expelled nine US diplomats after detaining two American-based evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson. The United States had called the move “outrageous”.
Brunson, who had lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was detained by Turkish authorities in October 2016. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted over an alleged terror-related plot connected to a 2016 coup attempt, and has been charged with links to organisations deemed terrorists by Turkey and the US.
Allegations made against Pastor Andrew Brunson Read more
In a statement, Bass said: “His behaviour does not reflect the standards and values of the United States. The United States strongly condemns these steps and will pursue all appropriate diplomatic and legal avenues to ensure that we can defend the honour of our officials, our embassy, and our US citizens who are being detained.”
The new batch of US expulsions include Anne Patterson, the chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Ankara.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Bass said that “a number of our officials and employees were indeed given notice to depart”.
Bass said the US is concerned about the possibility of unrest in Turkey. “We don’t want there to be any situation in Turkey that jeopardises our citizens or our citizens in Turkey,” he said.
In an earlier statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said it had notified Washington of its decision to expel 9 American diplomats on Sunday, bringing the total number of diplomats expelled to 10.
“An interesting development seems to be emerging,” John Ziemba, head of the department of European studies at the US National Defence University, told the Associated Press. “The US appears to be trying to retaliate and release tensions.”
Riot police stormed into the headquarters of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s party on Monday, detaining its chairwoman and the party’s deputy chairman.
Nasim Zeynalov was detained while at a meeting with members of the Turkish parliament, and the deputies before her were questioned.
A government source told Reuters that a second deputy party chairman, Eskinder Komurcu, was also detained. Komurcu is a Turkish intelligence operative.
Zeynalov’s arrest was a blow to the party and her detention over the meeting was unprecedented. The opposition has been thrown into disarray following the resignation of two other deputies, a grand coalition of parties and the suspension of the party by its leader.
Since the collapse of the militant Islamic group of the same name in 2015, Turkey has been in the midst of a huge wave of arrests, a large majority of them related to the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara blames for masterminding the failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The purges led to the arrests of close to 160,000 people and the dismissal of more than 100,000, which forced organisations across the country to close down. Erdoğan has given seemingly contradictory signals about the continued crackdown, explaining that his crackdown was aimed at ensuring stability in Turkey but also allowing him to press ahead with the political and economic reforms that he has announced, including the introduction of full Islamic Sharia law in the country.
Turkey has started to scale back anti-terrorism measures in response to the debt crisis in neighbouring Greece, and capital controls in 2016 – but it is still clamping down on civil society.
There are concerns within the European Union about Turkey’s fragile political, economic and security stability, in particular its fragile internal democracy. Several member states, including Germany, have raised their concerns with Erdoğan about the impact of the crackdown on civil society in Turkey.