Turkish foreign minister threatens US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Mevlut Cavusoglu took offence at comments that Turkey, the second biggest jailer of journalists in the world, is not democratic

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference in Riga, Latvia May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discarded his diplomatic tools on Friday and ripped into US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, calling her ignorant and threatening that she “will learn to respect the Turkish people’s will.”

Mr Cavusoglu’s tirade used uncharacteristic language for a foreign minister attacking a woman who is third in line for the US presidency.

“@SpeakerPelosi’s rise to become Speaker of the House is what is truly worrisome for American democracy, given her blatant ignorance. You will learn to respect the Turkish people’s will. @realDonaldTrump,” he tweeted.

Turkey’s top diplomat chose to tag both Ms Pelosi and US President Donald Trump in his tweet. His attack followed Ms Pelosi’s remark on Thursday that Turkey is not a democracy.

When asked about Mr Trump’s non-committal answer to peaceful transfer of power in the US, Ms Pelosi cited differences between her country and others including Turkey in this tradition.

“You are not in North Korea, you are not in Turkey, you are not in Russia, Mr. President ... you are not in Saudi Arabia. You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy,” she said.

She also referenced Mr Trump’s close personal relation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We do know who he admires. He admires [Russian President] Putin, he admires Kim Jong Un, he admires Erdogan in Turkey."

These words triggered Mr Cavusoglu’s heated response, which experts see as masking Ankara’s own undemocratic record.

“Turkey slams Nancy Pelosi for implying Turkey is not a democracy... on a day Turkey arrests 82 members of an opposition political party for protests in 2014,” Nate Schenkkan, the director of Special Research at Freedom House tweeted.

Steven Cook, an analyst and observer of Turkish politics at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the attack on Ms Pelosi “drops all semblance of diplomacy in favour of personal insults and threats.”

This is not the first time that the Turkish political elite has attacked senior US Democrats. In August, Turkey attacked Democratic nominee Joe Biden for calling Mr Erdogan an “autocrat” and urging support for the Turkish opposition.

Mr Trump is known to have a direct line to Mr Erdogan whom he called in the past a “great ally”, "a very good friend" and said he is a “big fan” of him.

But the bilateral US-Turkey relationship has suffered in the last year as Ankara purchased and received the Russian S-400 defence missile system in July of 2019. The move triggered penalties from the US removing Turkey from the F-35 consortium and canceling Anakra’s purchases.

Turkey’s debt to US pharmaceutical companies has dramatically increased from $230 million to $2.3 billion in the last year, US ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield said this week.

Turkey, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, is the second biggest jailer of journalists in the world with 47 arrested in 2019.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry and Ms Pelosi's congressional office were not immediately available for comment.