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Over 80 U.S. Foreign Policy Figures Call on Obama to Confront Turkey Over Democratic Downward Spiral

The Daily Beast on Thursday conveyed the contents of a letter signed by what the outlet described as “more than 80 top foreign policy figures from across the political spectrum,” calling on President Barack Obama to confront Turkey over Ankara’s ongoing crackdown against civil liberties, human rights, and the rule of law.

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly undermining a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic U.S.-Turkish partnership: Turkey’s growing democracy,” reads the letter… “We are writing because of our deep dismay at this development and to urge you to make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path. Silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdoğan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further.”

“These developments have already roiled Turkey’s economy, polarized its society, and endangered its political stability,” the letter reads. “Some might argue that because the United States has many interests with Turkey—not least of which is ending the violence in Syria and easing the suffering of its people—it should not risk alienating its ally. Should Turkey succumb to the authoritarian impulses currently on display, however, it would have profound implications for our ability to work together and, therefore, for our deepest interests.”

The letter came after a week in which analysts and journalists across at least three continents publicly worried that Turkey had de facto ceased to be a functioning democracy. The letter was organized by the center-right Foreign Policy Initiative and the center-left Center for American Progress, along with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Freedom House. A summary of the text is here and the full letter is here [PDF]. It assessed that that “[Turkish] Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is increasingly undermining… Turkey’s growing democracy,” thereby threatening “a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic U.S.-Turkish partnership.” Declaring that “silence will only encourage… Erdogan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further,” the letter’s signatories urged the President to “make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path.” Coverage in Turkish outlet Today’s Zaman specifically picked out portions of the letter that described how Erdogan had last December lashed out against U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, accusing Ricciardone of seeking to undermine the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and implying that he could be expelled from the country.

[Photo: ΠΑΣΟΚ / Flickr]