Erdogan angered by ‘rookie’ U.S. ambassador’s criticism on freedoms

Special to WorldTribune.com

ANKARA — Turkey and the United States have been engaged in a dispute
over freedom of expression under Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

Ankara and Washington were arguing over what the State Department
contended has been the decline of personal freedom in Turkey.
Officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, have focused on Ankara’s
policy of arresting critics.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan meets with U.S. ambassador Francis Ricciardone.

“I continue to believe that it’s one of the fundamental areas where
Turkey needs to pay attention if it’s to emerge absolutely where Turks want the country to emerge — as a hundred-percent, first-class, world-standard democracy,” U.S. ambassador Francis Ricciardone said.

In a briefing on Aug. 15, Ricciardone said the arrest of critics of
Erdogan was raised by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton met Turkish leaders, including Erdogan, in an effort to increase cooperation in intelligence and security amid the Sunni revolt in neighboring Syria.

“The secretary of state deeply cares about it [arrests in Turkey],” Ricciardone said. “I can tell you she did it in a very respectful, supportive and positive way, but she spoke very much from the heart and very clearly. She believes that this
something very important to Turkey and to Turks.”

U.S. criticism of Turkey’s crackdown on dissent echoed that of the
European Union. The EU has repeatedly expressed concern over the arrest of
hundreds of journalists, artists, academics and others seen as critical of
Erdogan, head of the first Islamist government in Turkey for nearly a

Erdogan has been angered by criticism from Brussels and Washington. The
prime minister, deemed the foreign leader closest to U.S. President Barack
Obama, termed Ricciardone, a former ambassador to Egypt, a “rookie.”

Ricciardone said his statements reflected concern by many in Turkey,
including parliament. He said he would continue to promote democracy in the
NATO state.

“I have heard Turkish leaders in the government and in the opposition
expressing their concerns about what needs to be done in terms of access to
justice,” Ricciardone said.

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