US-TURKEY

170 US lawmakers urge Biden administration to push Turkey on rights

170-us-lawmakers-urge-biden-administration-to-push-turkey-on-rights

One hundred seventy members of the US House of Representatives signed a bipartisan letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging President Joe Biden’s administration to address “troubling” human rights issues as it formulates policy for dealings with Turkey.

The letter, dated February 26 and made public on Monday, notes that NATO ally Turkey has long been an important US partner but says the administration of President Tayyip Erdogan has strained the relationship.

“Strategic issues have rightfully received significant attention in our bilateral relationship, but the gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are also of significant concern,” said the letter, whose signers included Representatives Greg Meeks, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the panel’s ranking Republican member.

Erdogan said on February 20 that the common interests of Turkey and the United States outweigh their differences and Turkey wants improved cooperation with Washington. But relations have frayed over a host of issues, including Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system and US support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria.

Washington has also expressed repeated concern over rights and freedoms. The lawmakers’ letter said Erdogan and his party have weakened Turkey’s judiciary, installed political allies in key military and intelligence positions, and wrongfully imprisoned political opponents, journalists and members of minority groups. [Reuters]