Istanbul | Turkey’s military and political leaders were to meet today in Ankara with the top US military commander in the first direct talks since last month’s failed coup. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, will meet with Turkish chief of staff General Hulusi Akar and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in the Turkish capital.
Tensions between the two NATO allies have been aggravated by the foiled July 15 putsch by rogue elements in the military who sought to bring down the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And some Turkish officials have even alleged that Washington could have had a hand in the plot, although the suggestion has been firmly denied by top US officials.
Turkey successfully thwarted the attempted coup, blaming it on a military faction loyal to Erdogan’s arch-foe Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who has been in self-imposed exile in the United States for years. From his secluded compound in Pennsylvania, the preacher has denied the charges.
Ankara has dispatched dossiers to Washington which it says proves Gulen’s involvement in the putsch, with the White House on Friday confirming it had received documents from the Turkish government requesting the cleric’s extradition from Pennsylvania. Last week, Erdogan lashed out at the top US general in the Middle East after he expressed concerns over military relations between the two allies in the wake of the putsch.
Quoted by US media, US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel had said the failed coup and subsequent round-up of dozens of generals could affect American cooperation with Turkey. You are taking the side of coup plotters instead of thanking this state for defeating the coup attempt, the Turkish leader said.
The US State Department has rejected suggestions it had any hand in the coup as ludicrous. Dunford will also visit the Incirlik air base, which is used by the US-led coalition for air raids against Islamic State jihadists, a US official told AFP.
Ankara suspects that the base in southern Turkey was used by putschists to resupply war planes involved in the July 15 operation. Turkish authorities had temporarily cut power to the huge base in the wake of the aborted coup, later restoring electrical power supplies.
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