US House Committee Condemns Turkey Over Crackdown On Protesters

In a sign of new diplomatic standoff, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously condemned the violent crackdown by the Turkish security personnel on protesters outside the residence of the Turkish Ambassador during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit last week.

The hearing by the Committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday spoke to the volume of angst among the American politicians in Washington, D.C., who were further infuriated by tepid response from the Trump administration following the incident.

On May 16, 9 protesters have been injured and 2 policemen wounded in an altercation between protesters and members of President Erdogan’s security detail. The nasty scenes of the beating of protesters sent shockwaves and ripples across the Hill, prompting Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to call for the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador.

The fallout of the violent brawl, regarded as a public relations disaster for the Turkish side, was on full display in the Hill on Thursday, with the committee unanimously passing House Resolution 354.

“This timely resolution sends a clear signal to the Turkish government that we will not allow any foreign government to stifle the rights of our citizens,” the committee said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, one of the stalwart figures of the Republican Party, praised the committee’s action, reflecting a shared sense of fury and concern among fellow congressmen over the brazen crackdown on protesters.

“The violent crackdown on peaceful protesters by Turkish security forces was completely indefensible, and the [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan government’s response was wholly inadequate,” he said in a statement. “I want to thank Chairman [Ed] Royce, Ranking Member [Eliot] Engel, and all members of the Foreign Affairs Committee for taking swift action this issue.”

“Turkey is an important NATO ally, but its leaders must filyl condemn and apologize for this brutal behavior against innocent civilians exercising their First Amendment rights. In the meantime, we stand fully committed to helping bring all those responsible to justice,” he said in a statement.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry was quick to downplay the congressional act and disparaged the move in harsh terms. In a display of rift, both the Turkish and American sides offered two divergent reading of how the event played out.

In its response to the House resolution, Ankara once again pointed to its own account of the events and accused the American side of “distorting facts.”

For Turkey’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu, the resolution passed with “a one-sided resolution which distorts the facts.” His view of the incident was a potent reminder of how Turkey saw the evolution of the brawl, which, according to Mr. Muftuoglu, was a result of the negligence by the U.S. authorities.

“The incident … was caused as a result of the refusal of U.S. authorities to take necessary security measures, despite repeated official warnings,” Mr. Muftuoglu said in a statement.

Turkey’s consistent refusal of assuming responsibility for the outbreak of the altercation contradicts two videos that went viral on the social media. In the videos, it was clear that members of President Erdogan’ security detail attacked the protesters before the president entered the Embassy.

The incident, observers and media critics in the U.S. believed, laid a waste to the visit given its lofty goals for a reset in the strained bilateral ties between Ankara and Washington, D.C. Whatever effort the Turkish side previously showed to lay the ground for a successful trip, it bungled dramatically and publicly in the eyes of the whole American people.

The latest House move is certainly bound to inject a new layer of uncertainty to the ties that already appear on edge. Turkey and the U.S. have competing strategies and clashing interests in Syria, both over fighting the Islamic State and the American alignment with Syrian Kurdish militia, viewed as a mortal foe by Ankara.

In addition to enduring tension over the Syrian conflict and U.S. alliance with Kurds, Ankara sees a Turkish cleric’s presence on the American soil as a source of friction between the two allies. The American administration has repeatedly rebuffed the Turkish demand for the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup last summer.

The American authorities say the Turkish side has yet to come up with a convincing evidence that links Mr. Gulen to the attempted coup.

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