Secretary Of State Kerry Hopes For 'Stability' In Turkey Amid Apparent Coup

Jul 15, 2016
Originally published on July 15, 2016 9:39 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A dramatic story is unfolding tonight in Turkey that could have global consequences. At this moment, there are competing claims for who is in control of the country. Earlier this evening, the military took control of a state television station. An announcer read a statement that said, the armed forces were running the country.

Not long after that, the president spoke to network television in the country. The news anchor at the desk held a cellphone while Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the small screen of the phone. He vowed to retaliate against the military and said, the people behind the uprising would be punished. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen has been following the U.S. response to this and is here in the studio with us. Hi, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

KELEMEN: What kind of reaction have we heard so far?

KELEMEN: So far, mainly a lot of watching with concern. President Obama, we're being told, is being briefed and regularly updated on this. We heard from Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Moscow. He said, he hopes for stability, peace and continuity. But he didn't have much to say. He had been spending the whole day cloistered away in talks with his Russian counterpart about Syria. We're also hearing words of concern from many other places, from the United Nations and from U.K. and mainly appeals for calm.

SHAPIRO: Partially because this just seems so unstable right now. It seems that nobody really knows what is going on. What advice is the State Department offering to Americans living in Turkey?

KELEMEN: To shelter in place and to update their friends and family as possible to let them know that they're safe. The embassy is warning Americans that major bridges in Istanbul have been closed, that some buildings are under blockade. And while the U.S. is telling people to stay indoors, Ari, President Erdogan has been calling on his supporters to get out in the streets to protest.

SHAPIRO: Turkey is such an important U.S. ally, particularly in the context of NATO. How does this complicate American policy?

KELEMEN: It is a key ally. The U.S. worked very closely with Turkey, particularly now in the fight against ISIS. The U.S. uses the Incirlik Air Base, for instance, which is in Turkey. We're told some of those flights are on hold now as everyone tries to figure out what's happening. So there is a lot at stake.

But while the military ties have been close, the U.S. and Turkey do have a lot of differences, particularly between Presidents Obama and Erdogan. They've had some tense clashes over, for instance, U.S. concern about human rights in Turkey and a crackdown on media. And they have differences over Syria policy. President Erdogan has been complaining about U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, so there is a lot of tension. But obviously, no one wants to see any kind of protect - protracted conflict in Turkey over this.

SHAPIRO: Turkey has had coups in the past. But why would the military now try to overthrow the Erdogan government?

KELEMEN: Erdogan has been consolidating power, cracking down on the media. So there are a lot of domestic things going on. There's also a lot of concern internationally. I mean, he - there was a recent ISIS bombing at the Istanbul airport. He came under a lot of fire, a lot of criticism for not doing enough to protect people. His government also has a lot of conflicts with regional neighbors, with many other governments. And it's so fascinating, Ari, because it's a government that came to power talking about a - no-problem-with-neighbors policy. And they seem to be in a fight with just about everybody now.

SHAPIRO: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen, bringing us up to speed on an attempted coup in Turkey. We do not know yet whether it has been a successful coup or not, with competing claims of who is in charge of the country. We will keep updating this story as the night unfolds. Thank you, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.