The US and Europe need to work together to address action taken by Turkey in the Middle East in the past few months, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told French newspaper Le Figaro.
He said he agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron that Turkey had been “very aggressive” and cited its military moves in Libya and the Mediterranean, as well as its support for Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia.
Mr Pompeo, who travelled to Istanbul on Monday as part of a seven-country tour of Europe and the Middle East, also told Le Figaro that the Trump administration still had work to do to maintain pressure on Iran.
“Europe and the US must work together to convince Erdogan such actions are not in the interests of his people,” Mr Pompeo said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mr Pompeo said the increase in Turkey’s military operations was a concern, but he did not say whether he thought the country, which hosts US forces at its southern Incirlik Airbase, should quit Nato.
His visit to Istanbul did not include meetings with Turkish officials and Ankara was dismissive of his agenda, which focused on religious freedoms.
Mr Pompeo met Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, in the city yesterday to express his “strong position” on religious freedoms.
Mr Pompeo said it was an “incredible privilege” to meet the patriarch but faced cries such as “Yankee go home” from a group of about 20 to 30 Turks when he arrived.
Relations between Washington and Ankara are strained despite the personal friendship between US President Donald Trump and Mr Erdogan.
Mr Pompeo publicly chided Mr Erdogan for his decision to convert the Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque in July.
Before Mr Pompeo arrived in the country the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticised his trip.
It said the US should “first look in the mirror” before making an issue of the “completely irrelevant” subject of religious freedom in Turkey.