US sacrificing strategic ally Turkey: Erdogan

US sacrificing strategic ally Turkey: Erdogan

Ankara (Reuters): Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States on Thursday of mistreating a strategic ally, in a blistering speech which appeared to rule out swift resolution to a dispute between two NATO members jointly fighting Islamic State.

Hours after Ankara announced officials would meet soon to settle differences, Erdogan accused the US consulate in Istanbul of hiding an individual with links to a network he blames for last year’s failed coup.

He also condemned US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and separate US court cases against a senior Turkish banker and the president’s own security guards, mocking what he said was Washington’s claim to be “the capital of democracy”.

Turkey’s relations with the United States and many Western countries have been strained since last year’s failed military coup against Erdogan, in which more than 240 people were killed.

Turkey felt many allies were slow to condemn the coup attempt and failed to appreciate the danger it faced. Western countries have grown alarmed at the scale of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, with 50,000 people detained and 150,000 suspended from work.

Ties with the United States hit a low when Turkey detained a locally employed worker at the US consulate in Istanbul last week.

The United States says it is still seeking an explanation for the arrest - the second detention of a consulate worker this year. It suspended most visa services in Turkey, saying it needed to review Turkey’s commitment to the security of its mission and staff. Turkey reciprocated within hours.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday and expressed his “profound concern”, the US State Department said.

Erdogan has blamed outgoing US ambassador John Bass, saying he was putting at risk a decades-old alliance.

“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice a strategic partner to an ambassador who doesn’t know his place,” Erdogan told provincial governors meeting in Ankara.