Amid the escalating visa and arrest crisis between Ankara and Washington, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to pour some more gasoline on the fire, and said on Thursday that if the U.S. does not accept Turkey the way it is "then we do not need you", and blamed the ongoing diplomatic dispute on a US ambassador "who doesn't know his place."
"We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry but we do not need you,” Erdogan said quoted by Hurriyet, addressing a meeting of provincial governors in the capital Ankara.
Calling on Washington to “return to reason,” Erdogan repeated his claim that it was U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass who prompted the current crisis. "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 as quoted by Reuters.
“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn't say this," he said, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
Erdogan’s comments came a day after Ambassador Bass stated that the decision for visa suspension was taken by the U.S. government, which also confirmed that the decision was taken in coordination with the State Department, the White House and the National Security Council. “Our ambassadors tend not to do things unilaterally,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Oct. 10. Nevertheless, the Turkish president again claimed that it was Bass who prompted the current visa suspension crisis.
Erdogan continued his angry tirade, stating that "the decision taken by the U.S. Consulate and the statements made after it are not related to the truth or reality. A junta within the American bureaucracy that is related to the previous administration aims to sabotage relations between the new administration and Turkey."
In what has become a recurring event, Ankara and Washington are drifting ever deeper into their worst bilateral crisis in years after U.S. Istanbul Consulate official Metin Topuz was arrested last week, prompting the U.S. to announce on Oct. 8 that it has stopped issuing non-immigrant visas in Turkey. In return, Ankara imposed tit-for-tat measures implementing the same measures.
Separately, Erdogan once again criticized Washington’s hesitation to sell arms to Turkey, while instead providing arms to the “terrorist organization”, referring to the Kurds, for free. He also said Ankara will stand behind its decision to mutually suspend visa services with Washington “if the U.S. secretary of state and the president defend the ambassador’s step.”
“Turkey has acted based on the principle of reciprocity, following unjust and non-proportional steps taken against our citizens with the suspension of visa applications. Turkey is never a party that extends a problem,” Erdo?an added.
“Our wish for our interlocutors to return to reason and calm, abandoning steps that would harm our friendship and alliance,” he said.
Erdogan also stated that the detention process of the U.S. consulate officer Topuz “is ongoing within the constitutional framework.”
“The legal process on the individual working at the U.S. Istanbul mission as a local personnel, who is the citizen of our country and does not hold any diplomatic immunity, is ongoing within legal practices, agreements and the Vienna Convention,” he said.
The first US consulate employee arrest took place last week, when Turkish citizen Metin Topuz was detained. The pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah reported that he was accused of “facilitating the escape” of “known Gulenists” from Turkey. Topuz's arrest prompted the US embassy in Turkey to announce it was suspending “all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities,” stating that “recent events” had “forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel...”
There is yet some hope that relations between the two nations will improve. Overnight Bloomberg reported that representatives from U.S. and Turkey will meet in coming days to try and reach a solution to the mutual suspension of visas, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency says, citing Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag. The deputy PM also said that there is no obstacle to detained U.S. consulate worker’s access to lawyer, and added that Turkey-U.S. ties strong enough to overcome visa crisis.
That said, a few more similar outbursts by Erdogan, and ties between the two nations will be irreperably destroyed.