Turkey warned the US on Tuesday not to sacrifice bilateral ties over Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the July 15 failed coup and wants to see extradited to face trial.
“If the US does not deliver (Gulen), they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist,” justice minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters during a televised briefing in the capital Ankara.
Turkey has repeatedly pressed Washington to extradite the 75-year-old cleric to face trial over the attempted putsch, which saw a rogue military faction try to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Gulen strongly denies Ankara’s accusations and his lawyer last Friday said Turkey had failed to provide “a scintilla” of proof to support its claim.
Bozdag asked rhetorically how the United States would react if a person responsible for violence in their country was being hosted by Turkey.
“What if there was an attempted assassination of (President Barack) Obama while he was on holiday with his wife and children, if the White House was bombed, if tanks were driven over people, if soldiers shot at people from helicopters and the terrorist head responsible for all this was in Turkey?”
The coup took place while Erdogan was on a family holiday in southern Turkey and saw both the parliament and area around the presidential palace bombed from the air.
Bozdag said that if the US did not extradite Gulen, relations between the two would be negatively affected despite being “two friendly countries” at present.
The minister added that anti-US sentiment had reached its peak in Turkey over the Gulen issue and urged Washington to act before it became hatred.
“It is in the hands of the US to stop Turkish anti-US feeling becoming hate,” he said.
US secretary of state John Kerry, who could visit Turkey in late August according to Ankara, said just days after the coup attempt that Turkey must present “genuine evidence” and “not allegations” against Gulen for his extradition.