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International Politics

Turkey: US sacrifices a 'strategic partner' for ambassador, says Erdogan

Turkey's president called Washington's actions in the wake of a controversial arrest "unacceptable." Amid accusations of harboring a suspected Gulenist, US diplomats have denied hiding him at the consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said Washington was undermining its relationship with military ally Turkey by supporting the US ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, in a growing spat.

The two NATO countries have watched relations deteriorate after Turkish police last week arrested a locally hired US consulate worker who Ankara accused of having links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher blamed for a failed coup last year.

The arrest prompted Washington to stop issuing non-immigrant visas from its embassy and consulates in Turkey, while Ankara responded in kind hours later.

"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 said in a speech to provincial governors.

"If the ambassador in Ankara is leading the grand United States, then shame on you," Erdogan added. "Someone should have said: 'You cannot treat your strategic partner this way, you can't behave like this.'"

'No one's hiding'

Earlier this week, Turkish prosecutors summoned another local employee working at the US consulate in Istanbul. Police later detained his wife, his son and his daughter for questioning.

Erdogan claimed on Thursday that US diplomatic staff in the country were hiding the local employee in the consulate, but Ambassador Bass denied the allegations, saying: "No one's hiding at any of our facilities."

Read more: Turkey's Erdogan hopes Donald Trump will resolve spat

Last month, Washington froze arms sales to Erdogan's bodyguards after they clashed with Kurdish protesters during the Turkish president's official visit to the US for a meeting with his American counterpart.

Since a failed coup in July 2016 that left more than 240 people dead, Turkey has detained at least 50,000 people and suspended 150,000 more from work for suspected links to Gulen. The US has refused to extradite the Muslim preacher, who has denied any involvement in a conspiracy to topple the Turkish government.

ls/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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