TURKISH PM TO US AMBASSADOR: 'MIND YOUR BUSINESS'
Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan spoke in the Turkish Black Sea city of Samsun, where he told the US ambassador Ricciardone, 'We are not obliged to keep you in our country.’

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed crowds who had gathered to greet him in the Turkish Black Sea city of Samsun upon his arrival at the city's Carsamba Airport.

Erdogan was highly expected to speak publicly about the anti-graft case that has gripped the country this week, after dozens of people including top businessmen, bankers and bureaucrats allied with the ruling AK Party government were arrested across Istanbul as part of a corruption probe.

Speaking on the operations, which many believe is an indication of an official split between Erdogan's administration and former ally Fethullah Gulen, who heads the most influential lobby in Turkey, known as the Hizmet Movement, Erdogan said:

‘The recent allegations against the Turkish government are the work of international and local subcontractors. This is a move against the government and is an operation conducted by both external and internal forces.'

Noting that the growing strength of Turkey is disturbing its rivals, Erdogan clearly portrayed his belief that foreign elements were meddling with Turkey's domestic affiars. Nonetheless, he said 'The law will deal with this case accordingly. Our concern is that the law works properly and that the lawyers act in respect of the law.'
Erdogan categorically denied the corruption allegations, mentioning the fact that Turkey's GDP had increased three to four fold during his governance, as well as listing a number of development projects that had been completed during his time. He asked: 'How can you almost quadruple the national income in a country where corruption is prevalent?'

US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, has been the focus of the recent scandal, with many commentators suggesting that the US was behind the operation. This comes after the general manager of Turkey's Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan, was found out to be among those arrested.

Halkbank has drawn the wrath of AIPAC, a US-based pro-Israeli lobby group, which pressured 47 US congressmen to write letters to the US Foreign Ministry and Treasury calling for action against the bank for breaching sanctions against Iran. Turkey's Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan recently announced that Turkey was planning to revive its gold trade with Iran following an improvement in the relationship between Iran the Western countries after the P5+1 meetings last month. 

US ambassador Francis Ricciardone, was reported by Turkey's Star newspaper to have told a delegation of European diplomats on Decemeber 17 that Halkbank had been warned, and that they were soon to witness the 'fall of an empire.' Ricciardone, who met with Turkish main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu this week, denied that there had been any external influences in the anti-graft raids.

Without mentioning Ricciardone by name, Erdogan said: ‘Some ambassadors are behaving provocatively. My message to them...mind your business. We are not obliged to keep you in our country. If our ambassadors in your countries behaved like this, let us know. You wouldn't have to expel them, we would call them back ourselves.'

Fethullah Gulen's followers, who previously played a key role in bringing Erdogan's AK Party to power, fell out with the government in 2011 after prosecutors allied to Gulen targeted Erdogan's right-hand man, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan.

In more recent developments, the two grew further apart when Erdogan declared the government's intention to close prep schools in Turkey. Prep schools are a key source of income for Gulen's Hizmet Movement, which has followers high up in the judiciary, the police force and the AK Party itself.

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691 reads | 23.12.2013
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