Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday criticized the United States for moving a carrier strike group close to Israel, saying it will make “serious massacres” in Gaza possible and accusing the US of turning the Middle East into a “lake of blood.”
Following a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel on Saturday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that the US would be moving a carrier strike group that includes the USS Gerald R. Ford closer to Israel.
Erdoğan, who spoke at a joint news conference on Tuesday evening with visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, questioned why the US has sent an aircraft carrier near Israel that he said will likely play a role in Israeli “massacres” in Gaza.
Avusturya Başbakanı Karl Nehammer ile Ortak Basın Toplantısı https://t.co/ngGZ56X2um
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 10, 2023
“What will the US aircraft carrier do near Israel, why have they come? What will its accompanying ships and aircraft do? They will hit Gaza and facilitate serious massacres there,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also questioned the US presence in Syria, where a US F-16 fighter jet downed a Turkish drone last week that was deemed a potential threat to American forces in the area.
Turkish military officials initially denied that the drone belonged to the armed forces, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed last Friday that the drone was Turkey’s. Some reports said it belonged to Turkish intelligence agency MİT.
Erdoğan claimed that the US has 23 military bases in Syria.
“What are they doing there? Should we not talk about this? Turkey’s UCAV was shot down in Syria. Is Turkey not a NATO ally of the US? When it’s in your interest, you talk about being allies; otherwise, the US trains and arms all terrorist organizations [in Syria] and turns Syria and the Middle East into a lake of blood through them,” said Erdoğan.
He was referring to Kurdish militia groups such as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The SDF is the de facto army of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria. It provided crucial assistance to a US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The downing of the Turkish drone in northeast Syria took place as Turkey is conducting airstrikes targeting Kurdish forces in the area following a suicide bombing on Sunday in Ankara on Oct. 1 that was claimed by the PKK and injured two police officers.
Erdoğan said in a statement earlier this week that Turkey would retaliate for the downing of its drone when the time is right.
“There is no doubt that this incident is burned into our national memory, and when the time comes, action will be taken,” he said.