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Ankara Summons Top US Diplomat over a Twitter 'Like'

Ankara Summons Top US Diplomat over a Twitter 'Like'

Sunday, 6 October, 2019 - 15:15
FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a banner for the upcoming local elections in Ankara, Turkey, March 27, 2019. Banner with pictures of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), reads: "People's Alliance: The unity of common sense." REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey summoned a top American diplomat Sunday after the US Embassy's official Twitter account "liked" a tweet that said the people of Turkey should prepare for a political era without Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the national party, who has recently fallen ill.

The Foreign Ministry said the US charge d'affaires, Jeffrey Hovenier, was summoned despite an embassy statement that said its Twitter account had liked "an unrelated post in error," and apologized.

Many interpreted the tweet as suggesting that Bahceli, the leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) which is an ally of President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, could soon die.

The tweet was posted by a journalist Turkey accuses of having links to a network led by Fethullah Gulen who is blamed for a 2016 failed coup attempt. Turkish media reports say the journalist, Ergun Babahan, is wanted in Turkey.

The tweet drew ire from Erdogan's ruling party and as well as Bahceli's party — which are allies. Turkey's main opposition party also said it regarded the embassy's move as an insult to Turkey's parliament.

The embassy issued a second apology after Hovenier was called to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

"We do not associate ourselves with Ergun Babahan nor do we endorse or agree with the content of his tweet," the embassy's second apology read. "We reiterate our regret for this error."

Semih Yalcin, deputy head of the MHP, said on Twitter late on Saturday that Bahceli has recovered from his illness and would return to work in the coming week.

Sunday's incident occurred at a time when ties between Turkey and the US are strained over Syria policies.

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