Erdoğan: We might rethink some bilateral agreements with Washington

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President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds a press conference ahead of his departure for France at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey on January 5, 2018. Berk Ozkan / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday denounced justice in the United States and suggested that Turkey might rethink some bilateral agreements with Washington after a New York court convicted a Turkish banker in a trial that included testimony of corruption by top Turkish officials, Reuters reported.

“If this is the US understanding of justice, then the world is doomed,” Erdoğan told a news conference in his first public comments on Wednesday’s verdict, casting the case as American plot to undermine Turkey’s government and economy.

A jury in New York federal court convicted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, of evading US sanctions on Iran. Some of the testimony in court implicated senior Turkish officials, including Erdoğan. Ankara has said the case was based on fabricated evidence.

Erdoğan said the trial put agreements between the two countries at risk. “…. 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,” he said, without elaborating.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned the conviction as meddling in its internal affairs.

The trial put pressure on relations between Washington and the biggest Muslim country in NATO, already strained since a 2016 failed coup in Turkey that Erdogan blames on followers of a cleric who lives in the United States.

Last week the US and Turkey lifted all visa restrictions against each other, ending a months-long visa dispute that began when Washington suspended visa services at its Turkish missions after two local employees of US consulates were detained on suspicion of links to the coup.

Atilla was convicted on five of six counts, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law. The case was based on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

In his testimony Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians, including Erdoğan. Zarrab said Erdoğan, then prime minister, had personally authorized two Turkish banks to join the scheme.

Turkey says the case was based on fabricated evidence and has accused US court officials of ties to Fethullah Gülen, the cleric Turkey blames for the coup attempt. The bank has denied any wrongdoing and said its transactions were in line with local and international regulations.

“The United States is carrying out … a chain of plots, and these are not just legal but also economic plots,” Erdoğan said.

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