The U.S. State Department has again condemned the actions of Turkish security personnel during last week’s visit to Washington by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador to Ankara over the incident.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “As we noted previously, the conduct of Turkish security personnel last week was deeply disturbing. The State Department has raised its concerns about those events at the highest levels.”
She confirmed that the U.S. ambassador to Turkey was summoned to Ankara to discuss what she called “the violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel.”
Turkey said it summoned the ambassador to protest what it called the “aggressive” treatment of Turkish security.
The Turkish move appears to be in response to the strong U.S. criticism of the Turkish security personnel who apparently attacked demonstrators in Washington last week. The U.S. had summoned the Turkish ambassador to the following the violence.
John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, criticized Turkey’s decision to summon the U.S. ambassador. Cornyn told VOA, “I don’t think it’s our [U.S.] ambassador who ought to be answering questions. I think the Turkish Embassy needs to be answering some questions.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News Sunday that Turkey’s ambassador has been told last Tuesday’s violence was “simply unacceptable.”
“There is an ongoing investigation,” he said, adding that he will wait on the outcome of that probe before deciding on a more formal response.
The clash broke out between Turkish security personnel and protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence during Erdogan’s visit to Washington.
Protesters say they were attacked by Turkish security forces as they demonstrated peacefully. Turkey blamed the clash on the demonstrators, claiming they aggressively provoked people who had gathered to see Erdogan.
VOA’s Turkish service recorded video at the scene that indicated the Turkish security detail suddenly turned on the demonstrators, knocking them to the ground and kicking them until police pushed the Turks away. The video showed Erdogan standing beside his limousine, watching the brawl.
U.S. officials briefly detained two members of Erdogan’s security detail, but they were soon released, under customary diplomatic protocols granting immunity to aides accompanying a visiting dignitary.
Some U.S. lawmakers have demanded the United States take stronger action, including Republican Senator John McCain, who called for the Turkish ambassador to be expelled.
The top U.S. senators who oversee the U.S. foreign aid budget warned Turkey in a letter that there could be financial consequences if Turkey fails to punish the bodyguards responsible for the violence. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Patrick Leahy said in a letter to Turkey’s ambassador written last week, but released on Monday, that there could be “potential implications for assistance to Turkey” if Ankara does not take the incident seriously.
Nike Ching contributed to this report from the State Department. Michael Bowman contributed to this report from Congress.