Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday (20 September) demanded international action against the US-exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom he accuses of orchestrating an aborted coup d’état against him.
“I would like to call on all our friends to take the necessary measures against the Fethullah terrorist organisation in their own countries for the future of their own people and their well-being,” he told the UN General Assembly, referring to Gülen’s movement.
Gülen, who fled Turkey for Pennsylvania and has been active in religious dialogue and charity, strongly denies Erdoğan’s charges that he organised the July military coup attempt, which quickly collapsed.
Erdoğan, who has sought to purge Turkey’s schools and military of Gülen followers as he solidifies control, told the United Nations that the movement was present in 170 countries, posing a “national security threat” to all of them.
“This terrorist organization is in a deep mental heresy of subduing the whole world, far beyond Turkey,” he said.
“It is evident from our experience that if you do not fight against FETÖ now, tomorrow may be too late,” he said, referring to the group by an acronym.
Erdoğan has pressed the United States to extradite Gülen. US Vice President Joe Biden said on a visit to Turkey last month that legal experts and courts would need to review evidence against the preacher.
The Turkish leader also lashed out at the European Union over implementation of a deal in March that calls for Turkey to step up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, mostly from Syria, who have fled for Europe.
In turn, Europe promised three billion euros in aid, visa-free travel to Turks and faster talks on the country’s longstanding goal of joining the European Union.
“Unfortunately, we have not received significant support from other countries, especially the European Union, that had promised us to contribute in this regard,” said Erdoğan, who said Turkey had spent a total of $25 billion, half of it in camps, to care for the nearly three million Syrians on its soil.
Promises by the European Union “have been nearly forgotten and artificial excuses are raised all the time,” Erdoğan said.
The European Union voiced particular alarm when Turkey spoke of reinstituting the death penalty – banned in the 28-member bloc – for coup perpetrators.
Erdoğan is a major proponent of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He said Turkey’s military offensive launched last month has “propped up the self-confidence of the moderate Syrian opposition.”
The operation aims to create a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria. Erdoğan regretted that Turkey “could not get the necessary support” earlier to meet the goal.
The United States, while allied with Turkey, has put an emphasis on eliminating the Islamic State group rather than on the removal of Assad.