Turkish foreign minister says wants US envoy McGurk changed

Posted May 19, 2017

The United States said it summoned Turkey's ambassador to the State Department, where the No. 2-ranked USA diplomat raised concerns about the security detail for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington, after they were captured on video violently breaking up a protest.

The office of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released a statement Thursday afternoon condemning the violence and used the incident to swipe at Trump: "The unprovoked, vicious attack on peaceful protestors by Turkish security agents was appalling and a graphic reminder of how political dissent in Turkey is routinely crushed with impunity". The two leaders touted strong ties between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, but Erdogan emphasized his country will not accept Syrian Kurdish fighters in the region while stopping short of directly criticizing a USA decision to arm them. "After this, we will not hesitate to carry out similar operations whenever we see necessary".

Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, Turkey and the European Union. His appearance at the Brookings Institution during the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit was marred when his security detail roughed up demonstrators and tried to eject "undesired" journalists. "We are already telling you in advance, our rules of engagement give us this authority, we will take such a step and we won't discuss it or consult with anyone".

Police Chief Peter Newsham said on Wednesday the violence was "not something we tolerate in our city".

United States officials told Ankara that the YPG would not constitute a threat for Turkey and that arms supplied by Washington would be used in Raqa and in the south, not against Turkey, Cavusoglu said. "It would be beneficial if this person is changed", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television. In response, Turkish officials told their US counterparts that they reserved the right to step up military action against the YPG in Syria.

The Trump administration rushed to McGurk's defense.

A USA -supported alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters is "tightening their noose" on ISIS in Syria's Raqqa province, a spokesman for a US -led coalition told Reuters on May 17.

Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield operation inside Syria a year ago, backing Syrian rebels with tanks, air strikes and special forces to sweep Islamic State from its southern border and stop the advance of the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization.

"These are not just average people at this", McCain said about the bodyguards.

A State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement Thursday that McGurk had the "full support and backing" of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the White House. By the time they walked to the Turkish Embassy, the group was down to about 15.

And Erdogan, speaking in Istanbul two days after meeting Trump, said he was putting Washington on notice that his forces won't hesitate to attack USA -backed Kurds if they threaten Turkey. "Turkey and the USA will together run an active combat against the PKK".

At least 11 people were injured in the violence. The death toll includes almost 400 civilians.

"Turkey is a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally that faces legitimate domestic security concerns emanating from ISIS, PKK, and other designated terrorist organizations", Nauert said.