According to a report by the State Department press pool, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded on Monday to U.S. criticism of excessive force by Turkish law enforcement by saying the United States should “look at themselves.”
The Associated Press has reported a “brutal” Turkish police response to “peaceful” protesters caused scuffles with police and over 500 were detained. Police fired tear gas into the crowd — which responded by throwing stones at law enforcement.
Multiple U.S. officials have supported the protests citing them as a sign of a healthy democracy. Secretary Kerry spoke to reporters about this topic during a joint press conference on Monday morning.
And we are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police. We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force with respect to those kinds of incidents. And we urge all people involved, those demonstrating and expressing their freedom of expression and those in the government, to avoid any provocations of violence. Obviously, everybody was deeply concerned about the numbers of people who have been injured and about the level of violence to property.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. is monitoring the protests “with concern” and that the Government believes the “vast majority” of the protesters have been “peaceful, law-abiding ordinary citizens.” Carney, along with the State Department, called for a “full investigation” of the reports of injuries and excessive force by Turkish officials.
During the State Department press briefing on Monday, a pool reporter expressed comments by Prime Minister Erdogan saying, “…before taking his flight out of the country, he said that, quote, the U.S. should look at — they should look at themselves, when he was asked about this criticism or comment…” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Turkey is a close NATO ally. “It is not up to us to judge here,” Psaki added, stating that the Department is only supporting freedom of expression.
Read a transcript of the State Department exchange and watch the video below:
QUESTION: So today, Prime Minister Erdogan, before taking his flight out of the country, he said that, quote, the U.S. should look at — they should look at themselves, when he was asked about this criticism or comment coming from Europe and you. So how do you see this response if the Prime Minister says these protests are undermining democracy and you are saying that majority of these protesters are peaceful, law abiding people, and this is based on their democratic rights?
MS. PSAKI: So you’re — I’m sure — I’m sorry, I’m not sure quite what your question is.
QUESTION: My question is the U.S. and Turkey are allies, and how do you think such a fundamental issue, these two countries see completely different angles?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can speak to our position and our view of this, which is, of course, that we broadly support full freedom of expression and assembly in this case and any other. We’re monitoring it closely. And again, I’d point you to what the Secretary said this morning, which is that we continue to work with Turkey — you’re right, a close NATO ally — on a number of issues, including Syria. It is not up to us to judge here; we’re simply looking at the events happening and encouraging freedom of expression, which is something we do around the world.