Ankara (GPA) – Turkish President Recep Erdogan has said he will no longer extradite terrorists to the US until the exiled cleric is returned.
Erdogan announced his new policy yesterday at a meeting of local administrative officials at the presidential palace in Ankara. The move is meant to step up the pressure for the US to return ex-Erdogan ally, religious leader, and charter school magnate Fethullah Gulen from his compound in rural Pennsylvania.
Speaking to the mid-level bureaucrats, Erdogan said of legal relations with Washington: “We have given the United States 12 terrorists so far, but they have not given us back the one we want. They made up excuses from thin air.” Erdogan has demanded the extradition of Gulen since just after an attempted coup in July of 2016, although the cleric has lived in the US since 1979, just before Turkey was put under martial law.
According to Erdogan, the coup was organized by members of Gulen’s FETO movement, a group that initially aided Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in taking power. Turkey considers FETO a terrorist organization. It’s this designation by Turkey that explains the way Erdogan speaks of Gulen as an equal trade for jihadists. “If you’re not giving him to us, then sorry, but from now on whenever you ask us for another terrorist, for as long as I hold office, you will not get them,” he said.
The latest calls for the return of Gulen are just one of the attacks on the US by Erdogan this week. On Wednesday Ankara also called on the US to stop supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria belonging to organizations also considered terrorists by Turkey. According to the Turkish government, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are connected to the Turkish Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
According to state media, the US ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to discuss the issue this week. Çavuşoğlu also published an op-ed in Newsweek in which he warned: “the fight against terrorism cannot be won by siding with one terrorist organization against another…the U.S. must step back from this grave mistake and not allow itself to be blackmailed by the terrorist outfit..”
Besides alienating the US, Erdogan has also spent the week pushing away his fellow guarantor states in the Syrian peace talks by demanding an end to Syrian anti-terror operations in Idlib. While the Syrian Arab Army, along with Russia and Iran, try to end the takfiri occupation of the city, many of the rebels finding themselves under the gun belong to groups backed by Ankara.
Much like the US, Turkey’s policy is now often in a state where it can be derailed by comments made by the president. Erdogan’s defense for these often contradictory comments is that they aren’t actually meant for anyone but the citizens of Turkey, however, the world is listening and nobody seems to like it.