President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday lashed out at the head of U.S. Central Command for siding with putschists in his remarks about the purge of military officers involved in the recent coup attempt.
On Thursday, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, a think tank, in Colorado, Gen. Joseph Votel said: "We have certainly had relationships with a lot of Turkish leaders -- military leaders in particular.
"I am concerned about what the impact is on those relationships as we continue,” he said. Votel was referring to some Turkish officers - now in jail - for their role in the coup attempt.
He voiced concerns that in the long run the coup and Ankara’s efforts to clear the military of coup supporters would have an effect on U.S. operations in the region.
“I am concerned that it will impact the level of cooperation and collaboration that we have with Turkey which has been excellent frankly,” Votel said.
In response, Erdogan lashed out at Votel, saying the U.S. general was not in a position to make such comments and meddle in the internal affairs of Turkey.
“Are you the one to decide on this [imprisonment]? Who are you? You have got to know your place,” Erdogan told a news conference Friday following a visit to the Police Department of Special Operations in capital Ankara, which was heavily attacked during the coup attempt.
“Instead of thanking this [the Turkish] government for thwarting this coup attempt, and for [maintaining] democracy, you are standing by the putschists,” Erdogan said.
The president also slammed Washington for harboring the U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of being the mastermind of the deadly coup plot.
“The putschist [Gulen] is already in your country, you are looking after him. This is a known fact," Erdogan said.
“You can never deceive my people. My people know who is involved in this plot, and who is the mastermind. With such statements, you are just revealing yourself. Turkey will not be duped,” he added.
Turkey has discharged at least 1,684 service members from the Armed Forces for their role in the failed coup when a faction of the military tried to overthrow the elected government on July 15.
The three military chiefs of staff, including the land, air and naval forces, preserved their top positions after the Supreme Military Council meeting Thursday.
Turkey's government has repeatedly said the deadly coup attempt, which martyred at least 246 people and injured more than 2,100 others, was organized by Gulen's followers.
Gulen is also accused of running a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the parallel state.
Later, Votel dismissed the claims against him in media.
"Any reporting that I had anything to do with the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey is unfortunate and completely inaccurate," he said in a statement.
The American general noted that Turkey has been “an extraordinary and vital partner in the region for many years”. He did not mention his views about the coup plotters in the statement.
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