President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the US was in danger of “sacrificing” its relations with Turkey, as he blamed the American envoy to Ankara for the crisis in relations between the Nato allies.
“It is the ambassador here who caused this,” Erdogan told a meeting in Ankara, referring to the outgoing US envoy in Turkey, John Bass.
“It is unacceptable for the United States to sacrifice a strategic partner like Turkey for a presumptuous ambassador,” he said.
The dispute erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the US consulate in Istanbul on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup.
In response, Washington halted issuing non-immigrant visas from its missions in Turkey, prompting Turkish missions in the US to hit back with a tit-for-tat move.
Although Turkish officials blamed the ambassador for the spat, the State Department said Bass had been operating with the full authority of the US government.
Bass is due to leave Turkey at the weekend after he was named the US envoy to Afghanistan earlier this year.
“If the giant America is ruled by an ambassador in Ankara, what a shame,” Erdogan said.
On Monday, Turkish prosecutors summoned another local employee working at the US consulate in Istanbul.
Erdogan on Thursday claimed that he was hiding in the consulate, but Bass had denied this the day before, telling reporters: “No one’s hiding at any of our facilities.”
Turkish authorities this week detained his wife, his son and his daughter.
Ankara wanted to open a new page in relations with the US under President Donald Trump but a spate of issues have raised tensions, including the US refusal to extradite Gulen and American support for Kurdish militias in Syria.
Erdogan said the US response to the arrest of the consulate employee was “unfair” and “disproportionate”, and urged for common sense.