Duvar English - Reuters
Over 170 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a bipartisan letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging President Joe Biden's administration to address "troubling" human rights issues as it formulates policy for dealings with Turkey.
The letter, dated Feb. 26 and made public on March 1, notes that NATO ally Turkey has long been an important U.S. partner but says the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strained the relationship.
"Strategic issues have rightfully received significant attention in our bilateral relationship, but the gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are also of significant concern," said the letter, whose signers included Representatives Greg Meeks, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the panel's ranking Republican member.
"President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have used their nearly two decades in power to weaken Turkey’s judiciary, install political allies in key military and intelligence
positions, crack down on free speech and free press, and wrongfully imprison political opponents, journalists and minorities," it read.
The letter also made a reference to the assault of Erdoğan's security detail on a group of protesters in Washington in 2017.
"President Erdogan’s government even brought its style to the streets of our nation’s capital, when during Erdogan’s 2017 visit to the United States, Turkish security personnel assaulted peaceful protestors and federal employees. Four of Erdogan’s guards still face charges in the United States for the incident. They remain at large in Turkey," the letter read.
Erdoğan said on Feb. 20 that the common interests of Turkey and the United States outweigh their differences and Turkey wants improved cooperation with Washington.
But relations have frayed over a host of issues, including Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile defense system and U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria.
Washington has also expressed repeated concern over rights and freedoms. The lawmakers' letter said Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have weakened Turkey's judiciary, installed political allies in key military and intelligence positions, and wrongfully imprisoned political opponents, journalists and members of minority groups.