The court case in which a former Turkish banking executive was found guilty of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran is a clear indication that Washington is behind the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
"This [case] revealed that the U.S. is behind Pennsylvania," Erdoğan told reporters travelling with him on his return from France. "It is the U.S. that has allocated 400 acres of land and supported the leader of FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terror Organization] in the U.S. All [Gülen's] villas are under protection [of the U.S.]," he said.
The troubled relationship between the two allies has come under further strain from the New York court case that found Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the executive of the state-owned Halkbank, guilty of evading U.S. sanctions on Iran through gold-for-oil trade operated by Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab.
TURKEY MULLS LEGAL ACTION AGAINST U.S.
Erdoğan also stated that Turkey "could initiate" legal action over the case of Atilla.
"If necessary, we could file a lawsuit against the U.S. regarding the Hakan Atilla case. Now Halkbank has the right to open a case, because [the New York case] tarnishes the name of our bank internationally," he said.
The Turkish president blasted the Atilla case as a "political" one marked by "a chain of plots," noting that a fugitive former law enforcement official who testified to the court confessed that he received $50,000 from the F.B.I. "If that is indeed the case, it means that your entire justice system has collapsed," he said.
"All these issues have seriously harmed the judicial relationship between Turkey and the U.S. Our cooperation has been seriously hurt," Erdoğan added.
On anti-terror cooperation with the U.S., Erdoğan voiced Ankara's "disappointment" over the issues of FETÖ and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara sees the YPG as being organically linked to the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), recognized as an outlawed terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
Erdoğan said Washington will "never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor," vowing to "hit them very hard [if they try do so]."
Erdoğan also called on the Turkish media to look at the issue of U.S. cooperation with the YPG "from the Turkish perspective, not from the U.S. one."