US apologizes for liking opposition tweet on health condition of Erdogan’s ally

The United States (US) Embassy to Turkey apologized at the weekend for the “mistake” that occurred on its official Twitter account which liked a tweet posted about a nationalist politician who was recently in the hospital.

On Saturday, the Embassy liked the tweet of critical columnist Ergun Babahan who said Turkey should be ready for a political period without Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Following the like, Ankara summoned the US chargé d’affaires to its foreign ministry on Sunday, requesting an “open and clear explanation of the social media posting”, the ministry said.

The US Embassy posted two apologies on Twitter, one before the summoning late on Saturday and the other in the aftermath on Sunday, also removing the like from its account

“We apologize for the mistake that occurred on our Twitter account yesterday. We do not associate ourselves with Ergun Babahan nor do we endorse or agree with the content of his tweet. We reiterate our regret for this error,” said the latter tweet.

Commenting on the issue, Omer Celik, spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said earlier on Sunday that the apology would not be sufficient, calling on the US State Department and Embassy to investigate the incident.

“It shows that some people employed in the Embassy are making a special effort to damage the relations between the two countries. The US Embassy needs to try to understand Turkey not through people linked with terrorist organizations but through people who can conduct proper analysis,” Celik said on Twitter.

The far-right leader Bahceli (71) was taken to hospital last month when he suffered from nausea, with his condition allegedly having been described as serious.

However, MHP’s Vice-Chair Semih Yalcin said on Twitter late on Saturday that Bahceli had come around and would return to work in the next week.

Under Bahceli, the MHP backed the AKP in the 2017 referendum which has changed the Turkish constitution and transformed Turkey’s ruling system into an executive presidency.

Later, the two parties formed an alliance in the 2018 parliamentary elections and 2019
local government elections.

The columnist Babahan fled the country after he was accused of being a follower of the Gulen Movement, led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who was accused by the Erdogan regime of masterminding the failed coup in July 2016.

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