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US congressman denies Turkish media claim that he met with İstanbul mayor

Bill Keating, the Democratic representative for Massachusetts’s 9th congressional district, has denied claims by several Turkish pro-government media outlets that he met with İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to “put Turkey on a Western course,” local media reported on Thursday.

The claim was made by the pro-government Yeni Akit, Aydınlık and Takvim newspapers and the haber7 news website and based on Keating’s remarks during an online joint hearing of two House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittees titled “Opportunities and Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean: Examining U.S. Interests and Regional Cooperation.”

“We’ve reached out to the mayor of İstanbul, we’ve reached out to other people for our hearings,” Keating said during the hearing on March 31.

Keating on Thursday denied the claims, saying in a tweet that he hadn’t spoken with nor met with İmamoğlu.

“My 3/31 remarks were in reference to a prior discussion with my staff about inviting the Mayor to a hearing, but no outreach took place and I certainly have not spoken with the Mayor as has been reported,” he said.

The claim had also been denied by İstanbul Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun.

“The news about [İstanbul Mayor] Ekrem İmamoğlu meeting with US Congress Member Bill Keating is completely fabricated. We will continue to openly share all diplomatic meetings we carry out in line with the interests of our city and country,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), ended the years-long rule of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in İstanbul by defeating the party’s candidate in the 2019 local elections.

In addition to frequently being subjected to criticism by the AKP politicians and pro-government media outlets, the mayor is also frequently the target of judicial harassment from government politicians.

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