Turkey’s Foreign Ministry lodged a formal protest Monday with the U.S. ambassador to Ankara over what it said were “lapses of security” during a violent confrontation between protesters and Turkish bodyguards during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington earlier this month.
The summoning of the ambassador, John Bass, sharply escalated a diplomatic rift between Turkey and the United States after the brawl, which prompted outrage in the United States, as well as calls for the prosecution of the Turkish guards and even the expulsion of Turkey’s ambassador to Washington.
American and Turkish officials have provided directly contrasting versions of how the violence unfolded. Local police said the Turkish guards savagely attacked a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence as Erdogan was visiting. The melee, which was recorded by video journalists, showed what appeared to be Turkish security guards kicking and choking protesters as D.C. police struggled to contain the unrest. The footage also showed that Erdogan was watching, from a distance, as the fighting raged.
Turkish diplomats have criticized the local police for failing to quell an “unpermitted” and “provocative” demonstration.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement on Monday went even further, criticizing “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program.” And it demanded that the United States conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.”
It is not clear from the footage exactly what set off the melee, but Turkish security guards, as well as men in suits who were standing among a pro-Erdogan contingent, can be seen attacking the protesters, including repeatedly kicking a man who lay on the ground. Another video shows that Erdogan himself watched the protest, after emerging from his car in the ambassador’s driveway.
Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency on Saturday released its own, edited video version of the protest that it said showed the genesis of the attack: a water bottle, thrown by a protester.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kareem Fahim