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Erdoğan lambastes Western countries as he starts Gulf tour

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during Erdogan's official visit in Jeddah. AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday harshly criticized Western countries, including the US and Germany, for supporting terrorist groups, before he began a Gulf tour of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Speaking at İstanbul Atatürk Airport before his departure, Erdoğan criticized German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for recent remarks against Turkey for detaining human rights activists, including a German citizen, and demanded that Germany extradite suspects and Gülen movement followers who are accused by Erdoğan of taking part in a failed coup last year.

Six human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey Director İdil Eser and German human rights consultant and activist Peter Steudtner, who were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada, were put in pre-trial detention by an İstanbul court last week.

At the press briefing on Sunday, Erdoğan also targeted Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of the US Special Operations Command, for supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Underlining that Turkey is a strong country in the region and knows who is who, Erdoğan said that “friends should not betray each other.”

Turkey criticized Thomas for suggesting that the YPG change its brand, which it did, to SDF.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group due to its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is also considered a terrorist group by the US and the EU.

Erdoğan’s first stop on his Gulf tour will be the Saudi port city of Jeddah, where he will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

He will then depart for Kuwait and later Qatar to meet with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Erdoğan is expected to bring up an ongoing Gulf crisis during his talks with Gulf leaders.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, citing Doha’s support for terrorist groups including ISIL and al-Qaeda.

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