‘US consulate phone-call to putschist’ sets tense scene for Tillerson visit to Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (left) greets Rex Tillerson in Ankara. (DHA)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Ankara on Thursday to meet with Turkish leaders to discuss the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

The visit comes a day after Turkey announced the ‘successful completion’ of its Euphrates Shield operation into northern Syria; an operation that had divided opinion not just in Turkey, but also internationally.

However, arguably more importantly, the visit coincides with court documents released yesterday that revealed records of a phone call from an official US consulate phone number in Istanbul to Adil Oksuz, one of the main suspects of last year’s coup attempt who is currently on the run.

Turkey was angered at the US and European countries for not immediately condemning the coup attempt, with the Turkish president claiming that the West was rooting for the success of the putschists.

The US responded to the court’s revelations with a statement issued by the US consulate in Istanbul admitting that it had called Adil Oksuz but only to notify him that his US visa had been revoked in accordance with a request by the Turkish government.

In a live TV interview on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim referred to the embassy’s statement and said, “we don’t buy it. We are waiting for a better statement,” and added that he was going to raise the issue with Rex Tillerson on Thursday.

A running battle between the Turkish government and several European countries has already heated the atmosphere in the country in the run-up to a referendum on constitutional reform on 16 April.