Time to get tough on Turkey's Erdogan, US foreign policy experts tell Obama

Bipartisan group of wonks, lawmakers urge US president to publicly chide Turkish PM for "undermining democracy."

February 23, 2014 14:55
1 minute read.
US President Barack Obama and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington.

US President Barack Obama and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A group of over 80 bipartisan lawmakers and foreign policy wonks are appealing to US President Barack Obama to take a more forceful, public stand against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to “diminish the rule of law” and “undermine democracy.”

The letter, whose existence was first reported on by The Daily Beast online news site, comes during tense times in Turkey, with Erdogan conducting a shake-up of the law enforcement and judicial establishments in order to shore up his hold on power.

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Erdogan has purged thousands of police and sought tighter control of the courts since a corruption inquiry burst into the open in December, a scandal he has cast as an attempted "judicial coup" meant to undermine him ahead of elections.

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly undermining a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic US-Turkish partnership:  Turkey’s growing democracy,” the letter, which was initiated jointly by the right-leaning Foreign Policy Initiative, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Freedom House, reads.

“We are writing because of our deep dismay at this development and to urge you to make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path. Silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdoğan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further.”

Among the signatories to the letter are former Obama administration officials Dennis Ross, who served as an envoy to the Middle East peace process; and Julianne Smith, a former advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. John Bolton, the former ambassador to the UN during the George W. Bush administration; Republican Sen. Norm Coleman; Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol were among the Republicans who endorsed the letter.

Obama and Erdogan spoke via telephone last week. According to the State Department, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues.

Obama and Erdogan spoke about the importance of quickly concluding the normalization agreement between Turkey and Israel.

The two leaders also addressed their shared interest in continuing efforts to advance a political solution to the Syria conflict.

During a news conference held earlier this month, Erdogan, reiterated his government's position that any reconciliation between Ankara and Jerusalem would be contingent upon an Israeli commitment to remove the siege on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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