Turkey’s president banned U.S. Ambassador John Bass and nine other Turkish government figures as “persona non grata” in the wake of violence at a NATO summit, though there was little else new on the Turkish-American rift amid tensions over Kurdish militants and a failed coup attempt.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Bass that he had to go and offered no explanation for the measure.
Turkey has reacted with fury to U.S. approval last week of $2 billion in aid for Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria, accusing Washington of supporting the militants and supporting terrorism. It has also sided with the Syrian Kurdish rebels, who are despised by Turkey for links to an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group inside Turkey.
Turkey accuses the U.S. of training Kurdish militants in Syria in order to destroy the Islamic State group, which controls nearly a third of Turkey’s border territory, fueling tensions between the NATO allies.
The ambassadors of Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, Macedonia, and the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran have also been told by their governments to leave Turkey, the foreign ministry said. The American embassy confirmed that Bass had been told to leave, adding in a statement that he could leave Turkey after three days.
The prohibition is the second to Washington’s envoy after the U.S. accused him of being part of a plot to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey said Bass was part of the “Gulenist Terror Organization,” which blames Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, for inciting a failed military coup in July. The U.S. accuses Erdogan of orchestrating the coup attempt to tighten his grip on power and further consolidate his grip on the secular state.
In a comment posted on his personal Twitter account, Bass said: “The Turkish government accuses me of orchestrating a violent coup. Turkey says I’m an enemy of the Turkish state.
“I have not been released but I am doing my best to be understood,” he added.
NATO and the U.S. say they will not stop supporting the Kurds in northern Syria, who are battling IS. And even if they withdraw from Manbij, U.S. forces will maintain control of the area, a U.S. official said.
“The Turks aren’t going to accept the Manbij military presence,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules for discussing sensitive security issues. “They will not be able to remove the troops. And as the Manbij deployment nears its end, they will not be able to conduct a military operation against (the Kurds).”
Other decisions about the withdrawal of the American military contingent from Manbij have not been made.
Erdogan told Bass that he had to leave after the government’s measures, the foreign ministry said.
He also gave special notice to the prime minister, the defense minister, the chief of staff, the Turkish ambassador to Washington and the Washington Consul General.
But, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party could face anger if several thousand protesters gather in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, during his trip this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany.
More than 20,000 people have been killed in terrorism-related violence since the start of the uprising in 2013.
More than 150 police and soldiers have been killed since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
The Turkish ambassador to Washington had already been told to leave.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.