Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan during a trip to the country that it risks instability if it fails to root out followers of his US-based nemesis Fethullah Gulen.
Speaking during an appearance with Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbai Jeenbekov on Saturday, Erdogan referred to the status of Gulen’s network in Kyrgyzstan as an “outstanding question” in otherwise warm ties between Ankara and the Central Asian country. Supporters of Gulen — a cleric and educator Erdogan once regarded as an ally — “infiltrate the army, police and other state structures and carry out coups” Erdogan said during the appearance in quotes that were translated into Russian. “We would not want (Kyrgyzstan) to have the same problems we faced,” Erdogan said, referring to the 2016 attempted coup that Ankara has blamed on Gulen allies. Gulen, based in the US state of Pennyslvania, has always denied the accusations.
After the coup bid, Turkish authorities launched an unprecedented purge against coup-plotters and individuals linked to Gulen, but also against pro-Kurdish officials and critical journalists. Since July 2016, over 55,000 people have been arrested over coup links while more than 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended. The government has led in parallel a diplomatic offensive to shut down educational institutions affiliated to Gulen in countries around the world. Jeenbekov indicated when appearing with Erdogan in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek that the Central Asian country had already taken steps to bring schools once affiliated to Gulen under government control.
To date, Turkey has given no indication that it has been satisfied by Kyrgyzstan’s attempts to restructure a chain of schools that are regarded as among the best in the country. The United States’ refusal to meet Turkey’s demand to extradite Gulen is one of many sore points in a once-strong relationship. Ties between the two NATO members hit a new low last month as US President Donald Trump announced steep new tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium in response to the detention of an American pastor in Turkey.