Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 15 criticised the US decision to issue arrest warrants for 12 of his security guards over a brawl that erupted outside the Turkish ambassador's residence last month during his visit to Washington.
“We will fight politically and legally against this decision,” Erdogan said on June 15, speaking at an iftar fast-breaking dinner in Ankara.
“What kind of a law is this? If my bodyguards cannot protect me then why am I bringing them to America with me”, Erdogan protested, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Two men identified as Sinan Narin of Virginia and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey have been detained on June 14 over the incident, according to the daily.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign ministry on June 15 summoned US Ambassador to Ankara John Bass over the arrest warrants. “The decision is wrong, biased and lacks a legal basis”, the ministry said in a statement. “The incident occurred because of the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures,” it added.
Pro-Erdogan and anti-Erdogan protesters clashed outside the embassy on May 16. The Turkish president's security detail then became involved in a brawl which left at least nine people injured.
Washington prosecutors have charged the Turkish security and police officers with assault, Reuters reported on June 15.
“We will weigh what additional steps will need to be taken”, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. But she did not say whether the US would seek the extradition of Erdogan’s security guards.
Nauert also read out a statement from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the arrest warrants, stating: “The charges filed against 12 Turkish security officials send a clear message that the United States does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression. The State Department will continue to work with law enforcement and the relevant legal authorities in the case. When an outcome is reached, the department will determine if any additional steps will need to be taken.”
Ankara’s relations with Washington are already strained over Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YGP militia. Another thorny issue between the two countries is Fethullah Gulen. The US has not has not acceded to Ankara’s request for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based cleric Gulen, the exiled preacher the Turkish government holds responsible for last year’s failed coup attempt, despite his strenuous denials of involvement.
It remains to be seen whether tension between the two Nato allies will escalate over the issued arrest warrants.