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Turkey elections: Erdogan says he wants to 'teach the US a lesson'

Turkey's president enraged by US Ambassador Jeff Flake's visit to the opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu during the election campaign
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AKP during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, 29 March (Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AKP during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, 29 March (Reuters)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that his supporters should teach the United States a lesson in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

Erdogan has uncharacteristically avoided criticising the West and the US so far in this electoral campaign, but made an exception during a rally in Istanbul’s Bagcilar district, where he officially opened a series of public buildings and investments. The elections will be held on 14 May.

The Turkish president cited the US Ambassador Jeff Flake’s visit to the opposition’s joint presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu last week as a reason for his anger at the US.

“We need to teach America a lesson in these elections,” he said. “Joe Biden speaks from there, what is Biden's ambassador doing here? He goes to visit Mr Kemal. It's a shame, give your head some work. You are the ambassador. Your interlocutor here is the president.”

Erdogan was addressing a small gathering of people at a local branch of the Turkish ultra-nationalist Idealist Hearths group, commonly known as the Grey Wolves. 

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Referring to Flake, Erdogan said: “How are you going to ask for an appointment from the president from now on?”

“Our doors are now closed to him. You cannot see [me] anymore. Why? You will know your limit. You will know your duty as ambassador. You will learn how an ambassador works,” he added.

The US and Turkey, allies and strategic partners on paper, haven’t had an easy relationship since 2014, when Washington decided to ally against the Islamic State group with Kurdish armed groups in Syria, which are viewed as terrorists by Ankara.

Since then, two more US administrations have taken power in Washington, yet tensions and occasional shouting matches over a set of issues from Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defence systems to Ankara’s decision to hold up Sweden’s Nato bid have continued.

Last month, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu accused Flake of trying to overthrow the government by creating “strife” and told him to “take his dirty hands off of Turkey”.

Erdogan plans to host an iftar dinner as part of the holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday. It isn’t clear whether he would invite Flake.

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