Turkey fury as US frets over post-coup military relations
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday angrily accused a top US general of siding with Turkey`s coup plotters for saying the country`s turmoil could downgrade military cooperation with Washington.
Ankara: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday angrily accused a top US general of siding with Turkey`s coup plotters for saying the country`s turmoil could downgrade military cooperation with Washington.
Turkey has arrested nearly half of its 358 generals for complicity in the July 15 failed putsch, forcing a sudden reshuffle at the top of the armed forces and raising fears over the continuity of its military strategy.
Quoted by US media, US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said Thursday that the coup bid and subsequent round-up of dozens of generals could affect American military cooperation with Turkey.
"You are taking the side of coup plotters instead of thanking this state for defeating the coup attempt," Erdogan said in angry remarks at a military centre in Golbasi outside Ankara, where air strikes left dozens dead during the coup.
"You reveal yourself with your remarks. We will not play your game!" said Erdogan.
In particular, Votel suggested the US had lost crucial Turkish military interlocutors who are now in jail and accused of being behind the coup -- a concern echoed by the US head of National Intelligence James Clapper.
"Know your place!" Erdogan told Votel, using one of his favourite expressions of anger.
"The coup plotter is already in your country, you are already feeding him," he said in reference to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding of the coup and wants to see extradited from the United States.Turkey is a key member of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria, with its Incirlik air base used for launching raids.
Turkey, which has itself been hit by deadly attacks blamed on jihadists, regularly targets IS positions in Syria with artillery fire.
But adding to the complexities in an already sensitive relationship, Incirlik was an important base for the coup plotters and its commander General Bekir Ercan Van was subsequently arrested.
Turkish Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu even suggested that the United States was behind the coup in the fellow NATO member, but this view has not been echoed by more senior figures.
"Why such a rumour would still be propagated or still be able to find purchase over there, I couldn`t begin to guess," said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that the notion the consequences of the coup would undermine the armed forces in the fight against IS were "ridiculous" and "unfortunate".
Turkey has embarked on a major crackdown since the rebellion to eradicate what Erdogan call the "virus" of Gulen from every public institution and particularly the army.
The government has ordered the discharge of 149 generals for complicity in the putsch, but Cavusoglu insisted the resulting army would be "more dynamic, cleaner and more effective".
Cavusoglu meanwhile said he expected more from the European Union, which while condemning the coup has expressed alarm over the subsequent crackdown.
But he emphasised that Turkey`s current drive to improve relations with Israel and Russia was "no alternative" to ties with the EU and NATO.