Turkey has condemned remarks made by US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden criticising President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and calling for support for the Turkish leader’s opponents.
Biden made the comments in an interview filmed by the New York Times in December, but a video of the remarks only appeared on Saturday before going viral on social media.
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Asked about Erdogan, Biden described the Turkish president as an “autocrat”, criticised his policy towards the Kurds, and advocated supporting the Turkish opposition.
“What I think we should be doing is taking a very different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” Biden said.
“He has to pay a price,” Biden said at the time, adding that Washington should embolden Turkish opposition leaders “to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”
The comments did not provoke much reaction when they were published in January, but the video of the interview triggered an angry response from Turkey.
“The analysis of Turkey by @JoeBiden is based on pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.
The analysis of Turkey by @JoeBiden is based on pure ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.
The days of ordering Turkey around are over.
But if you still think you can try, be our guest.
You will pay the price.
— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) August 16, 2020
“The days of ordering Turkey around are over. But if you still think you can try, be our guest. You will pay the price.”
Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said the comments “reflect games and an interventionist approach towards Turkey” and are inconsistent with current diplomatic relations.
“Nobody can attack our nation’s will and democracy or question the legitimacy of our President, who was elected by popular vote,” Altun said on Twitter.
“We believe that these unbecoming statements which have no place in diplomacy by a presidential candidate from our NATO ally, the United States, are unacceptable to the current administration too,” he added.
Biden’s statements also embarrassed Erdogan’s opponents, who the Turkish government regularly accuses of being in the pay of foreign powers.
Several officials of the main opposition CHP party quickly distanced themselves from Biden’s remarks, calling for “respect for the sovereignty of Turkey”.
Erdogan has worked to cultivate a personal relationship with current US President Donald Trump – who is running for re-election in November this year – and often lashes out at Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Biden – who is expected to be Trump’s opponent in the upcoming election – was Obama’s vice president.
Relations between Ankara and Washington were strained during Obama’s second term, particularly because of disagreements over Syria and growing international criticism over freedoms and rights in Turkey.
While Trump and Erdogan speak regularly, diplomatic relations have been strained over Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defences, policy in Syria and over US charges against a Turkish state bank for allegedly helping Iran evade sanctions.