Saturday 21 April 2018

US warned of diplomatic crisis if they fail to hand over Gulen

Turkish government supporters take to the streets in the wake of last week’s coup Picture: Reuters
Turkish government supporters take to the streets in the wake of last week’s coup Picture: Reuters

Josie Ensor

Turkey's foreign minister has announced he will be removing ambassadors with connections to the failed coup, as he warned the US of a diplomatic crisis if it did not hand over its chief suspect.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said ties with its Nato ally would suffer if Washington refused to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Islamic cleric accused by Turkey of masterminding the putsch from his home in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr Gulen (75), whose foundation runs a global network of schools, charities and media interests, has strongly denied the accusations. The US had repeatedly told Turkey it must provide clear evidence of Mr Gulen's involvement before it would consider such a request.

Mr Cavusoglu is heading to Washington this week to discuss the matter, but lawyers said the process, if launched, could take years.

Stoking tensions further, pro-Erdogan newspaper 'Yeni Safak' published the name and picture of a US army commander on its front page, accusing him of being a chief plotter.

Ankara is increasingly expressing frustration over what it says in the lack of solidarity from international partners in the aftermath of the coup.

Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, but have made it clear they are concerned over the scale of subsequent purges of state institutions.

The depth and speed of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown - which has seen more than 13,000 detained - has caused particular alarm in the European Union.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker questioned Ankara's long-standing aspiration to join the bloc. "I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become a member any time soon and not even over a longer period," he said.

Mr Cavusoglu responded by warning that the EU "can't threaten Turkey". "We're protecting European values," he said.

He did not specify which ambassadors would be removed from their posts, but it is understood they will be Turkish diplomats and not foreign envoys.

"Can I work comfortably as the foreign minister before I fully clean these traitors from my ministry?", he was quoted as saying. "I will do whatever is necessary within the law."

Turkish authorities also issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists in a new phase of the controversial legal crackdown.

Among those targeted by the warrants were prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak, who was fired from the pro-government 'Sabah' daily in 2013 for criticising ministers caught up in a corruption scandal. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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