Obama urges Erdogan to 'respect democracy'

American President speaks with embattled Turkish counterpart, urges him to respect civil liberties as he responds to failed coup attempt.

Ben Ariel,

Erdogan and Obama
Erdogan and Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged embattled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respect civil liberties as he responds to last weekend's failed coup attempt, Bloomberg reports.

Obama spoke with Erdogan by phone Tuesday and pledged “any needed assistance to the Turkish government” in the wake of last week’s attempted coup, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

At the same time, Obama made clear the U.S. expects that any inquiry should be conducted “consistent with the democratic” values of the Turkish constitution, said Earnest, who declined to answer whether the U.S. is concerned that the response won’t respect those democratic values.

“Those are the values that the Turkish people were defending in repelling the coup,” Earnest said, according to Bloomberg. “One good piece of evidence of that is you promptly saw” all parties of the Turkish parliament condemning the attempted coup -- even parties “who have vigorous political disagreements” with the Turkish government.

The coup attempt led by a faction of Turkey’s military the night of July 15 has tested relations between the U.S. and Turkey, over Erdogan's demand that the U.S. extradite or deport Fethullah Gulen, his rival who lives in Pennsylvania and whom he blames for inciting the rebellion.

Erdogan and Gulen are onetime allies who are now political opponents.

Gulen on Tuesday urged the U.S. to “reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas,” in a statement posted on the website of a group affiliated to him. The cleric reiterated his denial that he had any involvement in “the horrific failed coup.”

He has also suggested that the attempted coup could have been “staged” by the government.

During their call on Tuesday, Obama and Erdogan discussed Gulen’s status, Earnest said. Separately, he said, the Turkish government submitted information related to the cleric that the U.S. government is reviewing.

Earnest said it was too early to say whether the documents represent a formal extradition request and added that any decision on Gulen would be made according to steps established by U.S. law and not by Obama.

“There is a process that we will follow” as it relates to Gulen, Earnest said. “There also is due process to which people who live in the United States are entitled. And we’ll make sure that that due process is followed as well.”