Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the world may be “doomed” if the conviction of a Turkish banker by a US court is how the US understands justice, and warned that US-Turkish ties and accords are “losing validity.”
“The laws in our bilateral ties and the bilateral accords between us are losing their validity. I am saddened to say this, but this is how it will be from now on,” the Turkish leader told reporters in Istanbul, before his official visit to France on Friday.“If this is the US understanding of justice, then the world is doomed.”
Erdogan was commenting on the conviction of a Turkish bank executive at majority state-owned Halkbank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla. On Wednesday, Manhattan Federal Court found Atilla guilty of five charges related to bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law. The case is part of a wider US probe into an alleged Turkish conspiracy to evade US sanctions against Iran.
The high-profile case was earlier described by the Turkish president as “defamation and games” designed to “make Turkey kneel.” On Thursday, Turkey’s Deputy PM Bekir Bozdag condemned the court’s decision, saying it was “completely political.”
The lawsuits against Turkish citizens further soured already-strained relations between Washington and Ankara. There are tensions over US-based exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of plotting the failed coup of July 2016. The US long-standing delivery of arms to Syrian Kurdish militias, whom Ankara regards as terrorists, was also a bone of contention, until Washington vowed to stop providing the weapons in early December.
Ankara has also ruffled the feathers of its NATO partners with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense missile systems. NATO criticized the choice on the grounds that the Russian SAM was incompatible with the equipment used by the alliance, while Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said that Turkey purchasing S-400s would be a matter of concern for Washington.
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Also, Turkey’s planned purchase of some 100 F-35 fighters could be affected, Heidi Grant, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in November, as data collected by the S-400 allegedly could expose the F-35’s vulnerabilities.
More recently, bilateral relations nosedived after US President Donald Trump announced a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move triggered harsh criticism from Ankara.
“If we lose Jerusalem then we won’t be able to protect Medina. If we lose Medina – we will lose Mecca and Kaaba,” Erdogan said.