ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday slammed the United States over charges that a former Turkish economy minister conspired to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, depicting the indictment as a political move against his country.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a visit to Kazkhstan, Erdogan also criticized a separate indictment against Turkish security officials accused of attacking demonstrators during his visit to the United States in the spring. Erdogan said it demonstrated the U.S. administration's "weakness."
"I assess the step taken against our former economy minister as a step against the Turkish Republic," Erdogan said. "There are bad smells emanating from behind this (step) ."
This week's indictment of ex-minister Zafer Caglayan, in a widening U.S. investigation into a Turkish businessman and Turkish officials who allegedly helped Iran evade sanctions, has heightened the already tense relations between Ankara and Washington. Turkey is angered by U.S. support to Syrian Kurdish militia, whom it considers terrorists, and complains of a lack of support from its NATO ally following last year's coup attempt.
In addition, a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday voted to block the U.S. government from supporting weapons sales to forces protecting Erdogan over the violence against protesters that was carried out by his bodyguards.
Erdogan called on U.S. authorities to "review" the decision to indict Caglayan, saying the ex-minister had not engaged in any wrongdoing since Turkey had not imposed sanctions on Iran, an important trade partner. He said he would take up the issue with U.S. officials when he attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. Caglayan and other Turkish officials are in Turkey and remain at large from U.S. authorities.
On the indictment of his security personnel, Erdogan again accused U.S. security officials of not taking any steps to protect him from the demonstrators, who he said were members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. He said two female security officials who were protecting the Turkish first lady and were not present at the incident were also indicted.
"This demonstrates the weakness that the U.S. has fallen into," Erdogan said. "You might be a great nation but to be a just state is something else."