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U.S., Turkey dispute fighting in D.C.

Suzan Fraser
Associated Press

Ankara, Turkey — Turkey summoned the American ambassador on Monday to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by American security personnel against Turkish bodyguards during a violent incident last week in Washington. The U.S. ambassador told Turkey’s government its guards violated U.S. laws, a senior U.S. official said.

Turkey’s action appeared to represent retaliation for the forceful U.S. criticism of the Turkish guards’ behavior in the American capital, where they accompanied President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his visit. The U.S. summoned Turkey’s U.S. ambassador last week after the Turkish security officers were seen hitting and kicking protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence; one video shared on social media even showed Erdogan watching the melee.

Turkey didn’t specify the actions by U.S. security officials it deemed inappropriate. Video from the scene had showed U.S. police struggling to protect protesters, and two Turkish bodyguards were briefly detained after the incident. They were then set free and returned to Turkey.

In the meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Ministry in Ankara, U.S. Ambassador John Bass said the security personnel’s behavior contradicted U.S. laws and protected speech and assembly rights, according to a senior U.S. State Department official.

Bass and the Turkish officials disagreed about what prompted the outbreak of violence, said the official, who demanded anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations. The official said Bass told the Turks the U.S. was looking into what happened and why.

Pressure has been mounting on the Trump administration not to let the violence on U.S. soil go unpunished.

A pair of senators who oversee the U.S. foreign aid budget added to the pressure with a letter to Turkey’s ambassador warning there could be fiscal repercussions if Ankara fails to punish the bodyguards responsible. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Patrick Leahy D-Vt., said in a letter released Monday that there could be “potential implications for assistance to Turkey” if the unseemly incident isn’t taken seriously by Ankara.