Turkey’s parliament on Thursday approved a resolution to oust the U.S. ambassador and nine other U.S. officials who Ankara accuses of supporting a Kurdish militant group, formally elevating an already severe diplomatic row to a full-blown war of words.
The move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration’s response to a separate Turkish order on a Twitter account identified as the “Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)” escalated this week. The president said on Monday he might soon take “strong action” against Ankara, sending markets tumbling and sparking a geopolitical crisis.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a warning on Wednesday urging its citizens to reconsider travel to Turkey. One day later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry formally announced it would move toward the removal of U.S. diplomats.
“A legislative body of our country has now given this approval,” it said, calling on Washington to respect the “freedom of foreign nationals.”
The Turkish and U.S. governments have been trying to negotiate a resolution over the detention of the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey accuses him of orchestrating a failed coup last year. Gulen, who says he is innocent, lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and Turkey has repeatedly demanded that he extradited to serve a prison sentence.
But in July, Turkey detained a U.S. pastor, Andrew Brunson, whom the Turkish government accused of being linked to Gulen. Mr. Brunson, one of America’s best-known religious figures in Turkey, has been in pre-trial detention since then.
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, told lawmakers at a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that there was no basis for the accusations and, once he is released, planned to visit the pastor “soon.”
Mr. Bass also acknowledged that reports of a deal in which Turkey would release the pastor in exchange for U.S. asset freezes and travel bans against Turkish citizens were false.
The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Ismail Kahraman, has invited Mr. Bass to meet him to discuss the Brunson case.
“Mr. Bass, we hope that your visit will result in a solution in the near future,” he said.
Congress is expected to vote on the U.S. ambassador’s removal shortly.