Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Washington of “sacrificing” relations with Ankara, and has blamed the ongoing diplomatic dispute on a US ambassador “who doesn’t know his place.”
“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 in Ankara on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters.
Erdogan was referencing outgoing US Ambassador John Bass, whom the Turkish president previously accused of acting alone in the decision to suspend the issuance of visas to Turkish citizens, rather than on behalf of the United States government.
Erdogan reiterated that belief on Thursday.
“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn’t say this,” he said, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
The US State Department has denied that claim, saying Bass had the “full backing” of Washington, and that his actions were coordinated with the department, the White House, and the National Security Council.
Erdogan went on to deliver a blunt message to Washington, saying “we do not need you.”
“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry but we do not need you,” he said, as quoted by Hurriyet.
Erdogan also accused the US of hiding a suspect who is allegedly linked to cleric Fethullah Gulen – who Ankara blames for last year’s failed military coup – inside its Istanbul consulate.
It comes after the US State Department confirmed on Tuesday that Turkish authorities had summoned a third embassy staff member over the weekend, with spokeswoman Heather Nauert calling the move “deeply disturbing.”
The first US consulate employee arrest took place last week, when Turkish citizen Metin Topuz was detained. The pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah reported that he was accused of “facilitating the escape” of “known Gulenists” from Turkey.
Topuz’s arrest prompted the US embassy in Turkey to announce it was suspending “all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities,” stating that “recent events” had “forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel…”
Turkey responded in a tit-for-tat move, releasing virtually the same statement as the American embassy, only replacing the country names.
Ankara then issued an arrest warrant for a second consulate worker.
Addressing Ankara’s reciprocal move on Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey would “stand behind the visa decision until the end.”
Last year’s failed military coup prompted a major crackdown by Erdogan which has led to the arrests of tens of thousands of people and more than 150,000 soldiers, police officers and officials dismissed or suspended from their posts.