In A Sign Of Rift, Turkey Steps Up U.S. Bashing

US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass

Turkey has kicked off another round of bashing of the United States, a campaign largely led by the government, in the wake of recent criticism by Washington over the appointment of trustees to 28 municipalities.

Hashtag on Twitter, #JohnBassHaddiniBil (Know your place John Bass), was trending in Turkey as many users took on the microblogging website to vent their anger on U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. Ambassador Bass was particularly on target because a statement last week by the US Embassy criticized the appointment of trustees to 28 municipalities, 24 of them in Kurdish districts and provinces.

Last week, Turkish authorities extended their post-coup crackdown to Kurds and removed 28 mayors and suspended more than 11,500 teachers over “support of the separatist terrorist organization and its affiliates,” a term used to describe the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish rebel group.

The U.S. Embassy said on Sunday that Washington is concerned by reports of clashes in Turkey’s southeast following the government’s decision “to remove some elected local officials from office on charges of supporting terrorism, and appoint local trustees in their place.”

The embassy said it supported Turkey’s right to defend itself, but highlighted the importance of respect for due process and the right to a peaceful protest.

The government’s reaction was quick. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the replacement of mayors was none of anyone’s business and that Turkey does not “need a lecture” from anyone.

In a more incisive statement, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag rebuked the ambassador for the remarks. “Turkey is a fully independent, sovereign, powerful and a great nation. If the U.S. Ambassador in Ankara still did not learn this fact, we can teach him with patience,” the minister said.

Despite sometimes public differences, Turkey and the U.S. are NATO allies, and wage a joint war in Syria against ISIS. The relationship between the two nations has been fluctuating since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, with many ministers blaming the U.S. for the failed plot.

“We are angry,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday in his hometown Antalya. He scolded the U.S. for violating diplomatic etiquette and making critical statements about Turkey public, instead of broaching these issues during private talks. He said there are also many issues in the U.S. that are cause for concern, but he does not instruct the Turkish Embassy in Washington to make statements. Cavusoglu said the US ambassador was “not a governor” in Turkey and that he “must fulfill his duty appropriately.”

On Tuesday, in a phone talk with his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, Cavusoglu expressed Turkey’s concerns about the matter.

Even the Turkish nationalist opposition leader, Devlet Bahceli, joined the chorus to condemn the U.S. over its statement. “We are not your 53rd state,” Bahceli said. It was not immediately clear why he said 53rd instead of 51st.

Pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak, which usually reflects official government line, accused Ambassador Bass of making a “clandestine visit” to Black Sea province of Artvin on Tuesday, where main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu survived two separate armed attacks by PKK militants last month.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and Brussels.