Reuters / ISTANBUL

Turkey protested on Oct. 6 after the U.S. Embassy’s Twitter account liked a tweet saying that Turkey should be ready for a political realm without Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the nationalist party who has recently fallen in ill.

The dispute comes at a time when relations between the NATO allies are strained due to Turkey’s threatened incursion into northeastern Syria, after Ankara accused Washington of stalling efforts to establish a ‘safe zone’ there together.

Bahçeli is the leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is an ally of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party. The two parties entered the parliamentary and presidential elections in an alliance last year, which allowed them to attain a majority in parliament together.

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy liked a tweet that said Turkey should be ready for politics without Bahçeli, who has had health issues in recent weeks.

The AK Party said on Twitter that the user who had posted the message was wanted for links to the network of Fethullah Gülen, which Ankara says orchestrated the abortive coup in July 2016.

Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the AK Party, said the U.S. State Department and Embassy needed to investigate the issue and an apology would not suffice.

“It shows that some people employed in the Embassy are making a special effort to damage the relations between the two countries,” Çelik said on Twitter.

“The United States Embassy needs to try to understand Turkey not through people linked with terrorist organisations but through people who can conduct proper analysis,” he said.

The Embassy posted an apology on Twitter late on Saturday.

“Earlier today our Embassy Twitter account “liked” an unrelated post in error. We regret the mistake and apologize for any confusion,” it said. The like was also removed from the Embassy’s page.

Semih Yalçın, deputy head of the MHP, said on Twitter late on Saturday that Bahçeli has recovered from his illness and would return to work in the coming week.

The relations between the NATO allies have been under pressure in recent years over a range of issues, including Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, differences in policy in Syria and the detention of local U.S. consulate employees and citizens in Turkey.