Ankara will not comply with “impositions” from the United States to resolve the latest diplomatic row with Washington, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. The statement followed a meeting between the American and Turkish delegation in a bid to settle dispute.
The ongoing tension between the two countries escalated in early October with mutual suspension of visas, following the arrest of two US embassy staffers by the Turkish authorities.
“We will cooperate if their demands meet the rules of our constitution, but we will not succumb to impositions and we will reject any conditions that we cannot meet,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a news conference.
Cavusoglu was referring to Washington’s repeated requests for an explanation about the US embassy staffers arrest and charges against them.
The arrested staffers are a translator at the consulate in the southern province of Adana and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worker in Istanbul. They have been held on suspicion of links to cleric Fetullah Gullen, designated by Erdogan’s government as the main suspect and mastermind behind the last year’s failed coup attempt. The US denied these allegations.
Despite Cavusoglu’s hardline position, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the talks with the United States were moving in “towards a good point.”
“Details will become clearer in the next few days. Of course the delegation here will return to Washington after hearing our views and convey them to their superiors. I believe that this issue will be resolved in short order,” he said after the meeting.
The latest diplomatic spat negatively affected Turkish currency and stocks – the lira dropped 3.4 percent against the dollar, while the main stock index fell as much as 4.7 percent.
The status of Fetullah Gulen has been a source of great tension between Turkey and United States, as Washington repeatedly refused to extradite the cleric who currently lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pensylvania. Gulen denies any involvement in the events from 2016 coup attempt, which left more than 200 people dead. The post-coup crackdown resulted in more than 50,000 people arrested and over 150,000 people sacked from public sector jobs.
While Erdogan’s government says these measures are justified by the need to address national security concerns and root out “a deeply embedded network of Gulen supporters”, Turkey’s Western allies accused Erdogan of using the coup aftermath to quash all dissent and opposition.
Turkey is a member of the NATO and is part of the US coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but Ankara’s ties with Washington have been increasingly strained over support provided by the United States to the Syrian Kurdish militia People’s Protection Units (YPG), which spearheads Syrian Democratic Forces.
Turkey considers YPG the Syrian extension of the outlawed Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designating both as terrorist organizations. Although Ankara has been one of the Syrian rebels’ main supporters in the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad, the split with the United States on Kurdish issue pushed Turkey into rapprochement with Assad’s chief supporters Iran and Russia. Many see this development as another underlying reason for the visa move and tougher stance on Ankara.