The United States rejected claims June 17 that any U.S. organizations or Americans were stirring up unrest in Turkey, where anti-government protests have raged nationwide for almost three weeks.
“We absolutely reject the accusations that U.S. groups or individuals are responsible for or have escalated … the protests in Turkey,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to Agence France-Presse.
The statement came after a news story that appeared in a Turkish daily that accused a U.S.-based think tank of being behind Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests.
Turkey’s crisis began when a sit-in to save an Istanbul park from a redevelopment project prompted a brutal police response on May 31.
It has since spiraled into countrywide demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seen by many as becoming increasingly authoritarian. So far, four people have been killed and nearly 7,500 people injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.
Some Turkish leaders and media have protested that outside forces are trying to destabilize the country, a claim that Psaki strongly rejected, saying that the United States would always stand by the right of freedom of speech and peaceful protest.
“Look, we are focused on calling for calm, on calling for restraint. We remain a close ally of Turkey,” she stressed. “Of course, I’ve outlined and spoken, in a number of those occasions when you and others have asked, about the concerns we have had. And we haven’t held back in that regard in any way.”
Kerry speaks to Davutoğlu over unrest
Psaki also said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Saturday. “As you all know, they speak regularly. Often the thrust of their conversations is about Syria and their close cooperation and coordination on that issue. That was the same with this call as well,” Psaki was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.
She said the U.S. remained focused on calling on all parties to ease tensions and to resolve the Gezi Park issue through dialogue, taking into account views from across the political spectrum. “We also continue to urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence,” she said.
Psaki also cited reports over the weekend about the prosecution of medical professionals who were said to have been treating people injured during protests, adding that “all of these reports are greatly concerning and we’re very focused on monitoring it closely … We, of course, deplore the use of excessive force in any of these cases.”
She reiterated that U.S. officials were in close contact with their Turkish counterparts at the highest levels. “We’re hopeful that this can be resolved with calm and by an encouragement of restraint in Turkey,” Psaki said.