Ankara slams US ambassador for statement on municipality takeover

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US Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu

The Turkish government has reacted harshly to a statement released by the US Embassy in Ankara on the appointment of trustees to municipalities in the Southeast, calling it “an intervention in domestic affairs.”

The US Embassy on Saturday released a statement on its website expressing concern about clashes in Turkey’s Southeast following a government decision to remove elected officials from office and replace them with trustees, saying it hopes any appointment of trustees will be temporary and that citizens will soon be permitted to choose new local officials in accordance with the law.

“We see it as an intervention into Turkey’s domestic affairs and find such an evaluation unacceptable,” Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Monday in Muş province.

Describing the statement as “irresponsible” and “encouraging terrorism,” Soylu continued without mentioning the name of Ambassador John Bass:

“The envoys of countries we consider friends and allies do not have the right to make evaluations on this issue. … It is a statement that includes an element of incitement.”

The Interior Ministry appointed trustees to 28 local municipalities on Sunday, 24 of which were allegedly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while the other four were allegedly connected to the Gülen movement.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairperson Figen Yüksekdağ described the move as a coup against the will of the people, calling for mass protests against the decision on Sunday.

“The appointment of trustees is laying the groundwork for an internal war. This is a provocation. There is nothing left to talk about on this issue in terms of democracy and the law,” said HDP co-spokesman Ayhan Bilgen during a press conference on Sunday.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has also strongly criticized the government’s municipality move and signaled that it would take it to the Constitutional Court.

“This is political fraud. This is a blow to the will of Parliament stemming from a meeting at the presidential palace,” said CHP group deputy chairman Özgür Özel.

Rebuffing public criticism, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said his government will continue its policy of appointing administrators to Kurdish-run municipalities.

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