US defends envoy in row with Turkey

US State Department spokeswoman said that the US envoy only reiterated what former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously said regarding several trials in the country.

US defends envoy in row with Turkey

World Bulletin/News Desk

In a move to defend the US ambassador to Turkey, who drew ire for his recent remarks on the judicial system and ongoing coup probes in Turkey, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has stated that the US envoy only reiterated what former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously said regarding several trials in the country.

At a press conference on Thursday Nuland touched upon US Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone's recent statements regarding the judiciary in Turkey, saying the envoy only reiterated former US Secretary of State Clinton's comments on several Turkish court cases. “I am sure that [new] US Secretary of State John Kerry would say the same when he gets a chance to speak to the public,” added Nuland.

Ricciardone recently expressed doubts over the ongoing Ergenekon case in which military officers along with some businesspeople and academics are being tried on charges of attempting to topple the democratically elected government, questioning the way the Turkish legal system works. He also did not refrain from stating his support for generals jailed pending trial as part of a probe into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network.

"This is nothing new for us. We have been very frank on such issues in Turkey in front of the public and in special environments," Nuland underlined. “The responsibility of Turkey's friends and allies is to strengthen the rule of law in Turkey and to protect human rights as well as to point out, with due respect, the importance of progress in the protection of freedom of expression for journalists and blog writers,” Nuland added.

Ricciardone was at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday for a meeting in which he heard Turkish officials' complaints over his recent criticism of the judiciary in Turkey, as well as its record on freedom of speech -- one of the problematic issues between Washington and Ankara.

As the Turkish officials warned the US diplomat on his remarks, they underlined Ankara's expectation that he will not engage in such commentary in the future.

Hüseyin Çelik, the deputy chairman of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party), warned the US envoy not to cross the boundaries of his diplomatic position and to refrain from interfering in Turkey's domestic politics.

Ricciardone sends letter to Çelik over his remarks

Ricciardone has said his recent remarks criticizing the judiciary were misunderstood, after a chorus of government officials harshly criticized his statements.

In a letter he sent to Çelik on Thursday, Ricciardone said he was saddened to see that his remarks were misinterpreted by the media. He attached the full text of his remarks to the letter in a bid to “be understood correctly.”

Sources said the letter is not an apology and was submitted before the ambassador's meeting with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu on Thursday afternoon.

Last Mod: 09 Şubat 2013, 10:39
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