U.S. Harboring Gulen Is Destroying Turkey Ties, Premier Says

  • Turkey’s Yildirim speaks ahead of Joe Biden’s visit to Ankara
  • Turkey blames U.S.-based Gulen for masterminding coup attempt

U.S. failure to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric blamed by Turkish authorities for the failed military coup last month, is “destroying” Turkish-American relationships, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a stern rebuke ahead of a visit by Vice President Joe Biden.

“Nothing is the same after July 15,” Yildirim told journalists on Saturday in Istanbul. “America knows this, and we know they know it.” The premier described bilateral relations as “so-so.”

Biden is scheduled to visit NATO ally Turkey on Aug. 24, a diplomatic move that follows Turkish officials’ repeated requests for extradition or deportation of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. The visit aims to improve ties and also discuss developments in neighboring Syria, Yildirim said.

The U.S. Justice Department will send a team to Turkey in coming days to pursue allegations by the Turkish government of criminal activity by Gulen, an administration official said Friday. Turkish officials haven’t yet presented formal evidence that he was involved in the coup attempt, the official said.

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Turkey has jailed more than 20,000 suspects and removed almost 80,000 people from public duty after the coup attempt, Yildirim said on Aug. 17. More than 200 people were killed and thousands were wounded during the revolt, as troops fired on civilian protesters and clashed with police forces in Istanbul and Ankara, the capital. The government declared a three-month state of emergency afterward.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also repeatedly urged the U.S. to send Gulen to Turkey. A day after the coup attempt, he said the U.S. should do “what is necessary” if it’s a true partner.

President Barack Obama’s administration has said clear evidence of criminal activity is needed to satisfy U.S. due-process requirements as well as provisions of the U.S.-Turkey extradition treaty.

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