The failed coup attempt in Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s firm crackdown on the alleged plotters have aggravated ties between Washington and Ankara, already poisoned by the war in Syria and human rights issues.
Although they are NATO allies and officially partners in the fight against the Islamic State group, the United States and Turkey have seen their relations take an icy turn in recent months.
They have clashed on how to combat Islamist extremists and over actions by Erdogan’s government seen in the US capital as authoritarian.
US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a rather stern call to order on Monday.
With European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at his side in Brussels, Kerry urged Erdogan’s government to “uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
It was one in a multitude of warnings from Washington to Erdogan about the need to maintain civil liberties.
After a months long campaign in Turkey against journalists and Erdogan’s opponents, US President Barack Obama in April warned that the Turkish leader was taking his country down a potentially “troubling” path.
On Monday, after thousands were arrested in Turkey, Kerry said that NATO, the western military alliance of which Turkey is a key member, would “measure very carefully what is happening” with respect to democracy.
– Turkey out of NATO? –
For Matthew Bryza, a Turkey-based senior fellow at the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Kerry’s statement was “definitely misinterpreted here, perhaps totally unfairly, but misinterpreted as a warning that the United States may push for Turkey to leave NATO.”
Bryza, who was speaking during a teleconference hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, predicted a “rough ride” ahead for US-Turkish relations.
Bayram Balci, a researcher at the prestigious Institute of Political Studies (Sciences-Po) in Paris, called Kerry’s statement “totally irresponsible.”