US urges Turkey to strengthen its democracy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won five more years in office with sweeping new powers after a decisive election victory. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: The United States greeted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election with little enthusiasm Monday, calling for measures to strengthen the country’s democracy.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had not yet found time to talk to Erdogan, after a win that granted the Turkish leader sweeping new powers.

“We’re working to set up a call between the president and the president of Turkey to reaffirm our strong bond,” she said.

“We encourage Turkey to take steps to strengthen democracy and continue progress toward resolving issues in the bilateral relationship,” Sanders told reporters.

Washington and Ankara are long-standing NATO allies but relations have grown tense and Erdogan and his supporters employed anti-American rhetoric during the campaign.

Turkey objects to US military support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria and has demanded Washington extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and is accused by Ankara of fomenting a failed coup.

The United States, in turn, has called for the release of US citizens and mission employees held in Turkey’s jails on what US officials deem trumped up “terrorism” charges.

“We respect the decision of Turkish voters and look forward to a constructive relationship with President Erdogan as we jointly confront common challenges,” the State Department said.

“We encourage all of Turkey’s elected representatives, including President Erdogan, to represent the diverse views of all of Turkey’s citizens and to strengthen Turkey’s democracy.”

The European Union was also chilly in its response, but Erdogan is unlikely to be moved. Declaring victory, he told supporters: “Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world.”