Washington, July 23: US President Barack Obama on Saturday (July 23) strongly rejected reports that the US had a prior knowledge of a coup attempt in Turkey or that it was involved in it, saying such allegations are "unequivocally false" as America fully supports Turkish democracy.
"Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any US involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false, unequivocally false," Obama told White House reporters during a joint news conference with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto.
Responding to a question, the US President said he had said this in his recent conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also.
"I said that to President Erdogan. I said to him that he needs to make sure that not just he, but everybody in his government understand that those reports are completely false because when rumors like that start swirling around, that puts our people at risk on the ground in Turkey and it threatens what is a critical alliance and partnership between the US and Turkey," Obama said.
"I had a chance to talk to President Erdogan this week and reiterated what we said from the earliest reports that a coup was being attempted in Turkey, and that is that we strongly reject any attempt to overthrow democracy in Turkey, that we support the democratically-elected government there," he said.
"I want to be as clear and unequivocal as I can be. We deplore the attempted coup. We said so earlier than just about anybody and have been consistent throughout that the Turkish people deserve a government that was democratically elected, said the US President.
He also said that Turkey's request for the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Erdogan for the deadly unrest, would be handled in accordance with US law and that "evidence" against Gulen would be taken seriously.
"What is true is that President Erdogan and Turkey have a strong belief that Gulen - who is in Pennsylvania, a legal resident of the United States, is somehow behind some of these efforts. What I said to President Erdogan is the same thing that I would say to you and anybody else who asks, which is we have a process here in the US for dealing with extradition requests made by foreign governments," he said.
"It's governed by treaties and it's governed by laws. And it is not a decision that I make, but rather a decision that our Justice Department and investigators and courts make alongside my administration in a very well-structured and well-establish, process.
"So I told President Erdogan that they should present us with evidence that they think indicates the involvement of Gulen or anybody else who is here in the United States, and it would be processed the way that it is always processed and that we would certainly take any allegations like this seriously," he noted.
"But America's governed by rules of law, and those are not ones that the president of the United States or anybody else can just set aside for the sake of expediency, even when we are deeply supportive of Turkish democracy and even when we care deeply about any attempts to overthrow their government or any other illegal actions. We've got to go through a legal process," Obama said.
The military coup of July 15 failed to topple the govt of Recep Tayyip Erdogan
A police APC drives in the city center in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 22, 2016. Some Muslim faithfuls in Ankara welcomed the declaration of a state of emergency by the top authorities, a move that gives President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers in ruling the country.
The Erdogan govt has carried out extensive counter-measures following the coup attempt
A Turkish military officer is transferred to a court hall in the city of Alexandroupolis, northern Greece on Thursday, July 21, 2016. Eight Turkish military personnel who fled to Greece a board a helicopter during an attempted coup in their country are testifying in court during their trial on charges of entering Greece illegally. Turkey is seeking their return to stand trial for participation in Friday‚Äôs coup attempt. The eight deny any involvement and have applied for asylum, saying they fear for their lives if returned. AP/PTI
President Erdogan targeted state officials and academics following the June 15 coup attempt
Turkish mourners carry the coffin of a special forces policeman officer during his funeral procession, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Turkey intensified a sweeping crackdown on the media, the military, the courts and the education system following an attempted coup, targeting tens of thousands of teachers and other state employees for dismissal in a purge that raised concerns about basic freedoms and the effectiveness of key institutions. AP/PTI
The western world has criticised Turkey's strong counter measures following the coup attempt
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks after an emergency meeting of the government in Ankara, Turkey, late on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency following a botched coup attempt, declaring he would rid the military of the "virus" of subversion and giving the government sweeping powers to expand a crackdown that has already included mass arrests and the closure of hundreds of schools. AP/PTI