As President Obama’s friend Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes under increasing fire as the target of protests over his authoritarian and anti-secular rule, the White House is trying to walk a careful line and keep its distance along with its support.
“We continue to follow the events in Turkey closely and with concern. As we stated from the outset last week, the United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest that’s fundamental to any democracy. We believe that the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, law-abiding, ordinary citizens exercising their rights,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the daily briefing today.
“The United States has serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property. We all con the — on these events to be investigated, and urge all parties to refrain from provoking violence,” he added, noting Obama had not spoken with Erdogan since the protests began.
“I have no calls to report. I refer you to the State Department for any outreach that they might have had with the Turks,” Carney said.
“The United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right of people to peaceful protest, because that is fundamental to any democracy,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in an appearance with the Polish foreign minister today. “…And we urge all people involved, those demonstrating and expressing their freedom of expression and those in the government, to avoid any provocations of violence. Obviously, everybody was deeply concerned about the numbers of people who have been injured and about the level of violence to property.”
“We don’t say these things to interfere in another country’s choices or events, but we say these things to reaffirm what we believe are universal principles and values that are essential to the practice of democracy and to the improvement of the relationship between governments and people,” Kerry continued. “Our Ambassador has made our views known to senior officials and we have updated our travel advisories for American citizens in Turkey, reminding them of precautions to take in travel but also that they should not participate in these kinds of events. And obviously we hope that the people of Turkey and the Government of Turkey will find their peaceful way forward in the next days.”
Carney reiterated that Turkey “is a very important ally.”
“And, you know, look, all democracies have issues that they need to work through. And we would expect the government to work through this in a way that respects the — the rights of their citizens,” Carney said.
“We think that the right of free — expression and assembly, those rights are fundamental to democracy. And, you know, we have concerns about some of the response, but we — we certainly expect the Turkish government to — to work through this.”
Erdogan lashed out at social media for facilitating protests against him and his Islamist party, the AKP.
“There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” Erdogan said in an interview for Haberturk Sunday evening. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.“