US President Barack Obama has dismissed Turkey’s persistent speculation that Washington was behind the failed military coup there, saying that the rumors threatened the safety of Americans in the country and could damage bilateral ties.
“Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any U.S. involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false, unequivocally false,” said President Obama at a news conference at the White House.
A few days earlier, Turkey’s Labor Minister, Suleyman Soylu, who is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told a television station that “America is behind the coup,” reports the New York Post.
These rumors have been fueled by the fact that Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is being accused of being the coup’s puppet master, is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and that Turkey is demanding his extradition.
President Obama said Turkey needed to conduct its investigation of the coup attempt “consistent with the rule of law.”
He also confirmed that President Erdogan had pressed him to hand over Gulen, but said he had told the Turkish leader that it was not his decision to make.
“I told President Erdogan that they should present us with evidence that they think indicates the involvement of Mr. Gulen. And it would be processed the way it is always processed, and that we would certainly take any allegations like this seriously,” said the US President.