REPORTING FROM LOS ANGELES -- Rick Perry talked a little Turkey at the latest Republican debate in South Carolina. And Turkey is talking back.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry released a scathing statement Tuesday in response to comments by the Republican presidential candidate that the country said were “unfounded and inappropriate.”
“The U.S. has no time to lose with such candidates ,who do not even know America’s allies,” a spokesman said on the Foreign Ministry website.
In the televised debate Monday, Perry said Turkey was ruled by “what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.” Perry, citing his military service as an Air Force pilot that took him to Turkey in the 1970s, said the country had changed dramatically since then.
He suggested that it was time to consider whether Turkey belonged in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In response, Turkey pointed out that it co-chairs the Global Counterterrorism Forum with the United States and argued that it was on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. “Turkey became a member of NATO when the governor was just 2 years old,” its statement said.
Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government does not escape criticism for policies such as Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority, the country is regarded by some as an example for the region of how to meld Islam and modernization.
Once an ally of President Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria, Turkey has become a harsh critic of his crackdown on the opposition. Turkey also has been closer to Israel than most other Muslim countries, but relations have deteriorated in recent years.
The Foreign Ministry got in one last dig at Perry in its statement: “In any case, the weak support that Mr. Perry received [in] opinion polls and the primaries has revealed that his unfortunate views are not shared by the Republican Party grass roots.”
-- Emily Alpert
Photo: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry takes part in a South Carolina Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 16. Credit: Paul J. Richards / AFP