Turkish Interior Minister Soylu accuses US of being behind 2016 coup attempt

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu claimed on Feb. 4 that the failed coup attempt of July 2016 was carried out upon "the orders" of the United States. "It is blatantly clear the United States is behind July 15. It was FETÖ who carried it out upon their orders," he told daily Hürriyet.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu accused the United States on Feb. 4 of being behind a 2016 failed coup that Ankara has blamed on a U.S.-based Muslim preacher, the Hürriyet daily reported, at a time when Turkey is seeking improved ties with its NATO ally.

More than 250 people were killed in the attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government on July 15, 2016 when rogue soldiers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to seize state institutions.

Ankara has long blamed preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who lives in Pennsylvania, and launched a widespread crackdown on his network, which Ankara refers to by the acronym 'FETÖ.' Gülen denies any involvement.

Soylu told Hürriyet's Nedim Şener the United States had managed the coup attempt while Gülen's network carried it out, adding "Europe was enthusiastic about it," reaffirming a view he said he had been expressing since the putsch.

"It is blatantly clear the United States is behind July 15. It was FETÖ who carried it out upon their orders," he said.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment, but Washington has previously denied any involvement. It has repeatedly rejected Turkish demands for Gülen's extradition, citing a lack of credible evidence from Ankara.

Ankara is seeking to repair strained ties with Washington, which last year sanctioned Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defence systems, and with the European Union. The EU has threatened measures against Ankara over a dispute with Greece in the east Mediterranean.

Turkey has said in recent weeks that it achieved a "positive agenda" with the EU, and that it wants to improve relations with the United States under President Joe Biden. He is expected to be tougher on Ankara over its record on human rights, which has worried Turkey's Western allies.

Since the failed coup, Turkey has detained some 292,000 people over suspected links to the Gülen network and has suspended or sacked more than 150,000 civil servants. 

The government's response to month-long protests at Istanbul's Boğaziçi University has also alarmed Washington and the United Nations, with both condemning "homophobic" rhetoric by officials.

Soylu has referred to some protesters as "LGBT deviants" and Erdoğan said on Feb. 3 there was "no such thing" as LGBT.