Could John Kerry’s post-coup trip to Turkey soothe ties?
Secretary Kerry's visit scheduled for later this month will be the first US official visit since Turkey's unsuccessful coup in July.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Turkey later this month, Turkey’s foreign minister announced Friday.
Secretary Kerry’s trip, which is planned for Aug. 24, will be the first visit by a US official since Turkey’s military coup last month.
On July 15, leaders in the Turkish Armed Forces staged a coup against Turkish president Recept Tayyip Erdoğan through an “old-style effort with tanks and guns,” even successfully seizing Istanbul’s main airport. But after President Erdoğan, who was out of the country on vacation at the time of coup, publicized a cellphone video asking the Turkish people to take to the streets to "protect" their democracy, the takeover came to a violent end leaving more than 270 people dead and 2,000 injured.
Erdoğan has put numerous military leaders, politicians, and journalists on trial, making it clear that he will not rule out the death penalty. Thus far 70,000 suspects have been questioned and 18,000 have been arrested or detained.
But Erdoğan blames Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Muslim cleric now living in Pennsylvania, for organizing the coup from another country. Mr. Gülen denies any involvement in the violent coup.
As The Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson reports from Istanbul:
And then there is ‘the enemy.’
Pro-government newspapers have run full front-page ‘Wanted’ posters for [Fethullah] Gülen, the exiled cleric and former Erdoğan and AKP ally-turned-arch-foe. He is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt through what Turkish prosecutors since 2013 have called the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Turkish officials ... officially requested Gülen’s extradition, and say ties with the US will suffer if he is not handed over. Stories in state-run newspapers describe a number of Turks rushing to courthouses to change their names from Fethullah.
In a video that emerged Friday, Gülen says the Turkish reaction is 'stupid right now, they are laughing and acting like they have achieved success, like in a large celebration.... But the world is ridiculing them.'"
But Erdoğan has become increasingly frustrated with the United States, arguing that the US has the duty as an ally to hand over Gülen. The US has since refused, saying if an extradition were to happen it would need to happen through the legal process.
"Evidence matters and due process matters," says Reid Weingarten, one of Gülen's lawyers. "The bluster, the conspiracy theories and the threats of Mr. Erdogan are not strong enough to overwhelm the American legal system."
And the US is not the only country with a strained relationship with Turkey.
Erdoğan declared a state of emergency late last month, giving the government the power to sensor media, search citizens with more freedom, restrict gatherings, and suspend obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
High representatives with the European Union, Federica Mogherini and commissioner Johannes Hahn, have spoken out against Erdoğan's state of emergency.
Such a state allows Turkish authorities to disregard "the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of all individuals concerned to a fair trail," the representatives said in a statement.