New US envoy to Turkey calls Erdogan 'authoritarian'

Under pressure by US Senator John McCain, John Bass said that the Turkish PM is "drifting towards authoritarianism".

New US envoy to Turkey calls Erdogan 'authoritarian'

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Obama administrations' candidate for becoming the next US envoy in Ankara said under tough Congressional questioning that Turkey is drifting towards authoritarianism under its Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

US Senator John McCain put nominee John Bass under pressure at a Congressional hearing in Washington DC on Tuesday, during a terse back and forth over Turkey’s human rights record.

McCain grilled Bass for two minutes at the hearing, beginning with the leading question: “Do you believe that many of the actions that (Erdogan) he’s taken - suppressing social media, YouTube and Twitter, and restrictions on internet freedom and independent media - is a drift towards authoritarianism?"

As Bass hesitated, McCain added: “You are putting your nomination in jeopardy by not answering the question.”

'Less democratic'

Bass deferred to answer the question for two minutes as McCain remained insistent on a "yes" or "no" answer.

Bass finally said: “It’s a drift in that direction, yes, Senator.”

In response to a question from European Affairs subcommittee chairman Chris Murphy, Bass said that it would be very important to “to find ways to try to influence the discussion in Turkey in a way that shows the potential consequences for Turks if they continue down a path that would make Turkey less democratic”.

Kurdish integration

In earlier testimony, Bass said that, if confirmed, he would urge the Turkish government to more fully integrate its Kurdish community, as well as other minority groups, and to reopen the Halki seminary.

US ambassadors are nominated by the American President and confirmed by the Senate.

Bass served as US ambassador to Georgia from 2009 to 2012 and is currently the Executive Secretary of State.

He has worked on Turkey, Cyprus and NATO-Russia negotiations during his time with the US State Department.

Washington’s current Ankara envoy, Francis J. Ricciardone, has served in the post since 1 January, 2011.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Temmuz 2014, 09:35