TURKEY today set itself on a war path with America as tyrant Recep Erdogan attempts to reassert his iron grip on the country following a failed military coup.
By NICK GUTTERIDGE
PUBLISHED: 11:52, Sat, Jul 16, 2016 | UPDATED: 22:25, Sat, Jul 16, 2016
In an astonishing and reckless attack on the US the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the country considers itself at war with any nation that stands by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
He said: “Any country that protects Fethullah Gulen will be an enemy to Turkey.”
Moderate cleric Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has been a constant scapegoat for Erdogan who has accused him of trying to establish a “parallel state” to rival his own fiefdom.
The statement by Mr Yildirim will be seen as a thinly veiled threat to America to give up Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile at a religious retreat, or face diplomatic or even military consequences.
Gulen, the founder of an Islamic movement which carries his name, promotes a brand of the religion which promotes belief in science, interfaith dialogue and multi-party democracy.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he would consider an extradition request for the religious leader but stressed Turkey would have to provide evidence that Gulen was behind the attempt to overthrow the government.
However, there are reports today that Turkish authorities have shut off access and power to an air base used by US jets bombing Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria as tensions escalate.
The US embassy released a statement saying: “Be advised that local authorities are denying movements on to and off of Incirlik Air Base. The power there has also been cut. Please avoid the air base until normal operations have been restored.”
Gulen is a long-time opponent of tinpot leader Erdogan, who has accused him and his movement of fuelling insurrection and trying to establish its own institutions to overthrow the Government.
He has issued a statement denying any involvement in the coup and condemning the attempt to overthrow Erdogan, who he was once close friends with.
In it he said: “I condemn in the strongest terms the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force.
“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”
He now lives at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, a compound in Saylorsburg, in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.
The Turkish chief prosecutor has claimed that followers of the cleric within the country’s army launched the coup out of desperation after realising that their sympathies were about to be discovered.
In a statement read out on TV during the coup attempt the leaders of the coup, whose identities are not yet known, said they wanted to return Turkey to being a secular democracy, adding that Erdogan had eroded the constitution set down by its first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was his understanding that order had now “been restored” in Turkey and added that he hoped “constitutional process” would be followed in dealing with the plotters.
Mr Kerry also issued a statement of support for President Erdogan, saying that the US “stands squarely for democratic leadership in Turkey”.