Turkey threatens to expel US diplomats

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Ankara on Friday and was due to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has…

Turkey threatens to expel US diplomats

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Ankara on Friday and was due to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to expel the U.S. ambassador and nine other diplomats over a court ruling.

The court said the Washington Post had to pay fines for breaching state security and publishing official secrets.

Mr Erdogan said if he was elected president in June the Post would be jailed.

Mr Erdogan is expected to run for president again in 2019.

The charges relate to a leaked state government video showing soldiers shelling Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers a terrorist group.

On Wednesday the Post, citing unnamed sources in the confidential court order, reported that one of the officers on the video had been slain by militants.

Image copyright The Associated Press Image caption Turkish election rules allow presidential candidates to run in multiple elections and election periods

“If the council of state recognizes these spying activities as violations of Turkish state secrets and so one of our country’s intelligence professionals committed a crime, we also recognise them as breaching our public secrets,” Mr Erdogan said in an interview with Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper.

In the wake of the court ruling, Washington imposed sanctions on five Turkish military officers, including the general and chief of staff and Turkey’s number two security official.

Turkish state television said the men had been expelled from the country, accusing them of providing “foreign intelligence services” with information about a peace congress on Turkey’s island in the Mediterranean.

The president told Turkish broadcaster NTV on Friday: “It’s not an American mistake. These people were providing their information to the American government through Ankara’s spies.”

Turkey has moved to ban the Post from publishing its articles.

On Saturday morning, the presidential palace released a list of the 10 United States diplomats who the president has called to account for their role in the court decision.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was expected to meet with Mr Erdogan on Saturday

Those included the U.S. ambassador, John Bass, and chargé d’affaires, Yasar Yakis.

This is the second time in a week that U.S. diplomats have fallen foul of the president, after President Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that Turkey had threatened to shoot down U.S. and coalition aircraft.

Ahead of the summit with the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Friday night in Abu Dhabi, Mr Trump, who has long publicly criticised Turkey for its role in helping in the Syrian war, warned Ankara that it would “pay a price”.

“It’s a mess and they’re getting it… They’re going to pay a price,” he said.

Mr Trump had previously accused Mr Erdogan of allowing terrorists to enter Syria and of backing militants inside Turkish territory.

The US has warned against Turkish military action in northern Syria that would threaten the Kurdish-led militia in the region.

Mr Erdogan’s ruling AK Party dismissed reports of U.S. sanctions on the general and chief of staff.

“There was no official decision about U.S. sanctions in this regard,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told the local NTV channel.

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