US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Turkey on August 24, more than a month after a failed military coup shook the Nato member state, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber on Friday.
The attempted putsch, which President Tayyip Erdogan blames on US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, has strained Ankara’s relations with Washington.
Earlier, Turkey issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accusing him of ordering the coup attempt aimed at ousting Erdogan.
In the warrant, Gulen stands accused of “ordering the July 15 coup”, the Anadolu news agency reported. Gulen strongly denies any involvement and the movement he leads insists it is a charitable network promoting tolerant Islam. In a surprise move that a US State Department spokesperson declined to confirm, Erdogan announced in a live television interview that the US’s top envoy John Kerry intends to visit Turkey later this month.
“I think their secretary of state is coming on the 21th (August),” Erdogan told state-run TRT television. Within the next two weeks, a delegation led by Turkey’s foreign and justice ministers will also travel to the United States to explain Gulen’s alleged involvement in the coup bid, he said. If confirmed, the visits would take place despite a spike in tensions with Washington, with Ankara repeatedly demanding Gulen’s extradition since the July 15 coup bid.
The warrant issued by an Istanbul court for the reclusive cleric who is based in Pennsylvania is the first since the failed putsch, Anadolu said. Ankara has sent two sets of documents to Washington since the coup as evidence of his involvement in the putsch attempt. US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said American officials were reviewing the documents to determine whether they constituted a formal extradition request.
But he declined to comment on whether Kerry would visit Turkey later this month. The crisis in Turkey has erupted at a time when the Ankara-Washington relationship is as important as ever, with the US needing Turkish help in the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria. US fighter jets have been using Turkey’s southern base of Incirlik as a crucial launch point for lethal raids against IS targets in neighbouring Syria.