Turkey blasts US top diplomat over ousted mayors

Sunday 11/09/2016
US embassy called for early local elections to replace ousted mayors

ANKARA - Turkey on Wednesday blasted the United States' top diplomat in Ankara after the American embassy expressed concern over the ousting of two dozen mayors over suspected links to Kurdish rebels.
In a statement on Sunday, the US embassy in Ankara raised concerns over clashes in the southeast between protesters and police after 28 mayors were suspended mainly for suspected ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The embassy called for early local elections to replace the ousted mayors, who had been elected in 2014 polls, "in accordance with Turkish law."
The statement "is unacceptable, in particular for independent countries," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said, attributing the comments to US ambassador John Bass.
Soylu said "the way he (the ambassador) spoke, like he was trying to provoke us... has upset us." He said the US administration should warn the ambassador.
"That's what we expect because it is not the right approach," he said. "It is a test of sincerity. It is unacceptable."
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also conveyed Turkey's "concerns" over the embassy statement during a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry late Tuesday, foreign ministry sources said.
Speaking in the southern city Antalya Tuesday, Cavusoglu harshly criticised the embassy's statement, saying that the US ambassador was not "a governor" of Turkey.
"None of you are the boss of Turkey," he said. "Your ambassadors are not a governor in Turkey. They should do their job properly."
Diplomats in the hugely sensitive post of American ambassador to Ankara often find themselves hit by brickbats from the government and Bass' predecessor Francis Ricciardone was often hit by similar criticism.
The row comes against the background of strained relations between the United States and Turkey, in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.
Ankara wants Washington to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who it accuses of masterminding the plot and is frustrated by American warnings that the process will take time.
Soylu, who took over from his predecessor Efkan Ala earlier this month in a surprise reshuffle, has hit the ground running in his first days in office.
The suspension of the 28 mayors was welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a decision long overdue.
But in a symbolic gesture, Soylu also announced he was opposed to the removal of a Kurdish-language signs from Diyadin municipality.
"Our problem is with terror. Kurdish is one of our languages. The sign will be immediately put back," he wrote on Twitter.