Turkey wants US envoy removed in growing spat over Syrian Kurds
The Turkish foreign minister is calling for the removal of the US envoy, claiming he is sympathetic to Kurdish Syrians as the top congressional Republican demands swift action after the Turkish president’s security detail violently broke up a protest in Washington, DC.
Tensions are running high between the US and Turkey after the Trump administration announced plans to arm Kurdish Syrians militants with small arms, machine guns, armored vehicles and other military hardware. Washington sees the militia as best suited for an eventual siege of Raqqa, the Syrian stronghold of Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is pleading for the replacement of Brett McGurk, the US presidential envoy for the US-led coalition against IS.
“This McGurk is definitely supporting the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial for this person to change,” he said, accusing the diplomat of pursuing policies of the Obama administration, according to broadcaster NTV.
The comment comes as top congressional Republicans are demanding the Trump administration take swift action against the Turkish government after the president’s security detail violently broke up a protest earlier in the week outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.
This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior. https://t.co/WsIln8gOX5— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 17, 2017
The US “should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America,” Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Service committee said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“This kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically,” and suggested lawsuits would be filed if the bodyguard responsible can’t be identified.
On Wednesday, McCain condemned Turkish authorities, stating that there is "no excuse" for their "thuggish" behavior.
"This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior," he tweeted.
The incident occurred after Erdogan arrived after a White House meeting with President Trump. Video shows people pushing past police to confront a small group of protesters across the street in Sheridan Circle.
A separate video shows Erdogan arriving and sitting in his car as the fight breaks out, before then emerging and watching.
Attacking the small group of protesters with their fists and feet, men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. Another person wrenches a woman’s neck and throws her to the ground. A man with bullhorn is repeatedly kicked in the face. In all, 12 people were injured.
The US State Department has confirmed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail was behind the attack on Kurdish protesters in Washington, DC on Tuesday. Police believe “there could be a diplomatic immunity issue.”
Republican Senators Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ted Cruz (Texas) called on the Turkish government to immediately apologize for the violence.
Republicans are calling on the Trump administration to investigate whether criminal charges are warranted against any of the bodyguards.
Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) tweeted “Erdogan is so accustomed to beating up protestors in Turkey, evidently he thinks he can get away with such tactics here too. Outrageous.”
Erdogan is so accustomed to beating up protestors in Turkey, evidently he thinks he can get away with such tactics here too. Outrageous. pic.twitter.com/rXCM2ZOtjE— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) May 18, 2017
A congressional aide told The Associated Press that two members of Erdogan’s security detail were detained on the scene Tuesday by diplomatic security agents, and they quickly claimed diplomatic immunity and were released.
The Turkish Embassy in a statement blamed the violence on demonstrators, stating they were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president. The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured.”
Washington's Metropolitan Police Department said it had arrested two US residents, Ayten Necmi, 49, and Jalal Kheirabadi, 42, over the incident, according to the BBC. It was unclear if they were members of Mr Erdogan's security or protesters.
Turkey’s president told the United States it will not join any military operations that include Kurdish fighters in Syria.
“We said we would not be in such an operation with you where you ally with terror organizations and so we said good luck,” President Recep Tayyip Erodogan said after meeting President Donald Trump in Washington, according to AP.
Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units or YPG in Syria a terror organization an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade long insurgency against the Turkish state, seeking their own nation.
The US agrees with Turkey in designating the PKK as a terrorist organization, but rejects the idea that Kurdish forces in Syria or Iraq should be treated in the same fashion.