Washington, D.C. (GreekNewsOnline)
For a third week in a row Washington kept on throwing punches at Turkey. In addition to the S-400s, both the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress criticized Ankara’s deteriorated human rights record.
The bipartisan letter, signed by the majority of the U.S. Senate (54 senators) on Tuesday, stresses that Turkey still remains outside the good graces of the new Congress on human rights issues as well as on several points of geopolitical tension.
“Turkey remains an important ally in a significant region of the world, and it is precisely for this reason that we write to you today,” wrote the senators, led by Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Marco Rubio. The letter is also signed by the majority leader Charles Schumer.
“We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding.
“We urge you to emphasise to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course.”
The letter also references Turkey’s restrictions on independent media, judicial purges, attacks on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, support for Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia and purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
It also condemns Turkey’s attempts to pressure the US and Europe into extraditing Mr Erdogan’s critics, including NBA star Enes Kanter
Asked to comment on the letter of the 54 U.S. Senators, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Turkey is a longstanding and valued NATO ally with which the U.S. has shared interests, including ending the conflict in Syria, countering terrorism, deterring malign influence in the region as well.
“We seek cooperation on common priorities and, as with any ally, we engage in dialogue to address disagreements. We can uphold our values, as I was saying before, including our commitment to human rights and the rule of law, while also protecting our interests, and at the same time with Turkey, while ensuring that Ankara remains aligned with the transatlantic alliance on critical issues.”
Commenting on Turkish Defense Minister’s Hulusi Akar proposal, for Turkey not make the S-400s operational the entire time, Ned Price was adamant that U.S. policy vis-a-vis the S-400s has not changed.
“Russian S-400s are incompatible with NATO equipment. They threaten the security of NATO technology and they’re inconsistent with Turkey’s commitments as a NATO ally. This significant transaction from Russia, as you know, triggered the CAATSA sanctions under U.S. legislation, and we have and we continue to urge Turkey not to retain this system.”
Finally he replied to a comment that some think Secretary Blinken is snubbing the Turks, by not having talk yet to his counterpart.
“I certainly wouldn’t characterize it that way. What I would say, as I just did, is that Turkey of course is a longstanding ally. We share common interests with our Turkish partners. And I would expect the Secretary and his Turkish counterpart will have an opportunity to chat, to connect in the coming days.”
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We congratulate you on being sworn in as 46th President of the United States of America. As a Presidential candidate, you spoke of strengthening our alliances and promoting democracy as a bulwark against a rising global tide of authoritarianism. We have long shared those beliefs, and we write regarding the ongoing human rights situation in Turkey and ask that you press the Turkish government to improve its troubling record.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the country down an increasingly authoritarian path. He has systematically marginalized domestic opposition, silenced or coopted critical media outlets, purged independent judges and replaced them with party loyalists and jailed scores of journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Turkey behind only China in number of imprisoned media workers. Freedom House rated Turkey “Not Free” in its 2020 Freedom in the World Report. And the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices noted: “under broad antiterror legislation the government restricted fundamental freedoms and compromised the rule of law.”
President Erdogan’s foreign policy has also grown more belligerent and combative over time. In recent years, he brazenly attacked U.S.-backed Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria, he purchased Russian air defense systems despite warnings that they were incompatible with U.S. technology, and he encouraged Azerbaijan to use violence to settle a territorial dispute with Armenia. President Erdogan has also attempted to pressure the U.S. and other countries into extraditing Turkish nationals, whom he blames for the failed coup in 2016. The Erdogan government has sought to silence critics in the United States like Enes Kanter, an NBA player and human rights advocate, by going after his family in Turkey and placing an INTERPOL red notice on him.
Turkey remains an important ally in a significant region of the world, and it is precisely for this reason that we write you today. We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding. We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course.
America has a bipartisan tradition of promoting basic human rights and democratic principles. We believe deeply in continuing this important tradition and stand ready to assist your administration on these important issues.”
ON OSMAN KAVALA
On Wednesday, the United States called on Turkey to immediately release philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala, who has been detained for more than three years without conviction.
“The specious charges against Kavala, his ongoing detention, and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial, including through the merger of cases against him, undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy,” the U.S. State Department said.
Kavala was acquitted a year ago of charges related to 2013 anti-government protests, but was immediately rearrested on charges relating to a failed 2016 coup. An appeals court subsequently overturned his acquittal on the protest charges.
A Turkish court ruled on Friday to combine the two outstanding cases and rejected Kavala’s request to be released.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Washington should respect legal proceedings in the courts.
“Turkey is a state of law. No country or person can give orders to Turkish courts about legal proceedings,” it said, adding that issuing demands on Turkish courts while refusing to extradite U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup, was “inconsistent and unprincipled”.
Kavala was accused by Turkey of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent U.S.-based Turkey scholar, and both men were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.
An indictment alleged that Barkey had links to Gulen’s network. Gulen denies involvement and Barkey has said the charges are a “complete fabrication”.
“We also note with concern U.S. citizen Dr. Henri Barkey’s inclusion in these unwarranted court proceedings. We believe the charges against Dr. Barkey to be baseless”, the State Department said on Wednesday.
The State Department urged Turkey to abide by a European Court of Human Rights ruling in late 2019 that Kavala be released.
Turkish MPs criticize US
senators’ letter on Turkey
A group of Turkish MPs have criticized a letter sent by 54 US senators to President Joe Biden urging his administration to push Turkey’s leadership to do more to protect human rights.
“[The letter] is the latest example of hostile attempts against Turkey which are condemned to fail and [which are] inconsistent with the spirit of alliance,” 87 Turkish lawmakers, all members of the Turkey-US Parliamentary Friendship Group, said in a statement Friday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.
“The signatory senators’ baseless and irresponsible allegations targeting our domestic and foreign policy in no way conform to our strategic partnership with the US nor to our alliance under NATO,” the MPs said.
“Ever since its founding, the Republic of Turkey is, and has always been, a fully independent modern democratic state based on the rule of law,” they said.