The commander of US forces in the Middle East denied Friday that he had any link to the military coup attempt in Turkey following accusations by the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Any reporting that I had anything to do with the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey is unfortunate and completely inaccurate,” General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, said in a statement.
“Turkey has been an extraordinary and vital partner in the region for many years. We appreciate Turkey’s continuing cooperation and look forward to our future partnership in the counter-ISIL fight,” Votel said, referring to the Islamic State group.
Erdogan on Friday accused Votel of being on the side of Turkey’s coup plotters after commenting that the country’s turmoil could downgrade military cooperation with Washington.
“You are taking the side of coup plotters instead of thanking this state for defeating the coup attempt,” Erdogan said in angry remarks at a military center in Golbasi near Ankara, where air strikes left dozens dead during the failed putsch on July 15.
According to US media reports, Votel had said the coup bid and subsequent round-up of dozens of generals could affect American military cooperation with Turkey.
In particular, Votel reportedly suggested the US had lost key Turkish military interlocutors who are now in jail and accused of being behind the coup.
“Know your place!” Erdogan told Votel, using one of his favorite expressions of anger.
“The coup plotter is already in your country, you are already feeding him,” he said, referring to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara accuses of being the mastermind of the coup.
Turkey is a key member of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria, with its Incirlik air base used as a launch hub for raids on the group.