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1ST LEAD Erdogan says US cannot be considered 'civilized' amid row By Shabtai Gold, dpa

Europe
21.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul (dpa) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the United States on Saturday over indictments in Washington against his bodyguards who were involved in a brawl, amid the worst tensions in decades and a travel visa freeze from both sides. 

"I am sorry, I do not call this country civilized," Erdogan said in Istanbul, noting that he had been in Washington on an official visit when the incident occurred in May.

He was directly critical of President Donald Trump‘s efforts to restrict immigration from several Muslim majority nations and the US leader‘s use of the phrase "Islamic terror."

"The US is what is called the cradle of democracy. Something like this cannot be a democracy," Erdogan said. 

The brawl in May with Kurdish demonstrators was a key factor in the recent decline in relations between the two countries.

This month, both took measures to restrict visa access to one another‘s citizens. The US was the first to announce the move, following the arrest of a second US consulate employee in Istanbul. 

While both sides have said talks this week between the nations were positive, there is as yet no movement on the visa issue.

"If you do not issue my citizen with a visa, I too do not issue your citizen with a visa," Turkey‘s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying Saturday.

"You started this problem. If you want to solve it, I would also like to solve it," he said.

Other lingering issues include the war in Syria and US support for a militia that includes Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State extremist group. Turkey dubs the Kurdish a militia terrorist organization. 

The US embassy in Ankara released a statement, reaffirming that the Turkish-Kurdish armed Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK) remains a designated terrorist group. 

The US has been critical of a government crackdown in the wake of a failed military coup in Turkey, including the arrests of civil society activists and journalists. Turkey, meanwhile, wants the US to extradite a cleric it blames for the putsch attempt.

The travel visa has hit Turkish Airlines, which this week said bookings from and to the US were down 45 per cent, through to the period of the first quarter next year. 

 

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