Turkey: Erdogan challenges US freedom of worship

President Erdogan has questioned Trump’s administration claim of respecting the freedom of religion during an Iftar dinner in Ankara.

In a message directed at Washington during his address, the Turkish president raised concerns about Trump administration’s decision to not host an Iftar-dinner as part of events marking the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan.

Upholding such a decision will be discriminatory, Erdogan said as he reminded the U.S. of their claimed promotion of freedom of worship. “Did you not say you did not oppose freedom of religion?” he asked.

Officials at the U.S. State Department said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not support the proposal of an Iftar- dinner to celebrate the Islamic Holy month but he is willing to consider other possibilities. Organizing a dinner during Ramadan has been a traditional event in Washington for some years.

A concrete decision is yet to be made but President Erdogan has signaled that failing to host a dinner could lead “views on the United States to change.” He didn’t go into details on how the relationship between them will be affected.

Turkey has often highlighted that its ties with the U.S. would be affected due to its national security concerns that is, it claims, being jeopardized by individuals and groups resident in the US or in the Middle East. “We know what those who smile at our face do in our back” Erdogan stated as he raised the cases of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian man who faces trial in the U.S. on allegations of busting sanctions against Iran, and Fethullah Gulen, accused of pioneering the failed 2015 coup plot. The latest arming of the Kurdish fighters in Syria was also a cause of alarm for the authorities in Anakra.

“From now on, everything will be reciprocal,” Erdogan warned. Washington has not yet reacted to his address.

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