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6 Oct, 2019 18:25

Freudian slip? Turkey fumes over ‘meddling’ after US embassy LIKES tweet by exiled ‘terrorist-linked’ journalist

Freudian slip? Turkey fumes over ‘meddling’ after US embassy LIKES tweet by exiled ‘terrorist-linked’ journalist

US Embassy in Turkey liked a Twitter post of an exiled journalist concerning a Turkish party leader’s health, and unleashed furious reaction online. While the mission said it was an “error,” Turkish politicians were not convinced.

One should be mindful of what they’re doing on social media these days – especially when running official accounts, as a single “like” of a wrong post can turn into a full-blown diplomatic scandal.

The US Embassy in Turkey learned it the hard way on Saturday, after hitting the “like” button on a post, that speculated on health of Delvlet Bahceli – the leader of the nationalist MHP party and close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who fell ill earlier this week. The politician was discharged from a hospital late on Saturday.

The message in question was quite unremarkable – and not even particularly offensive by social media standards. It suggested that the Turkish people “should get ready for a political era” without Bahceli. Still, the message was clearly not something worth of a high-level diplomatic approval.

To make the matters worse, the original tweet was produced by Ergun Babahan – a Turkish journalist accused by Ankara of being a member of the so-called Fethullah Gullen Terrorist Organization (FETO). The journalist fled the country after the 2016 botched coup attempt and is now living in exile in Canada.

Such an explosive mix prompted a blistering reaction from Turkish politicians, with the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun urging the US State Department to investigate the offensive “like” and punish those behind it.

“Freudian slip? The US Embassy has no business meddling in Turkey’s domestic affairs,” Altun wrote on Twitter.

The top-level attention to the embassy’s social media flop prompted it to unlike the post and issue an apology.

“Earlier today our Embassy Twitter account “liked” an unrelated post in error. We regret the mistake and apologize for any confusion,” the US Embassy said.

This explanation has not convinced the Turkish officials, however. On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the US Charge d’Affaires and demanded an “open and clear” explanation regarding the cheeky like.

Erdogan’s patty, the AKP, was not satisfied with the apology either. Its spokesman, Omer Celik, produced a whole Twitter thread about the misplaced like. Liking such posts is a “complete violation of diplomatic practices,” he fumed, adding that “dry apology” cannot fix what had been done and a proper investigation was needed.

“The United States Embassy needs to try to understand Turkey not through people linked with terrorist organizations but through people who can conduct proper analysis,” Celik raged on. “No embassies can comment in such way on any political party and politicians in Turkey. Respect for diplomatic practices is essential. Persons associated with terrorist organizations cannot be the source of an embassy.”

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The Embassy’s blunder adds to the already strained relationship between the US and Turkey, that rapidly deteriorated after the failed 2016 coup. Ankara believes the controversial preacher Fethullah Gulen – who lives in the US – to be the mastermind behind the coup attempt, yet Washington has refused to surrender him to Turkey.

Ankara’s decision to buy Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft systems despite Washington’s strong objection to the deal has been another major issue between the two. The purchase has untimely resulted in the US scrapping a planned sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, since the planes might be somehow “compromised” by mere presence of Russian missile systems.

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