The Cable

Kerry Warns Turkey That Actions Could Have NATO Consequences

Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Turkish government Monday that its NATO membership could be jeopardized if it goes too far with its ongoing purge of thousands of military personnel, judges, and police officers accused of involvement in last weekend's failed coup attempt.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JULY 18: US Secretary of State John Kerry and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (not seen), attend a joint press conference after the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium on July 18, 2016.
  (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JULY 18: US Secretary of State John Kerry and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (not seen), attend a joint press conference after the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium on July 18, 2016. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Turkish government Monday that its actions could have consequences for the NATO alliance if it goes too far with its ongoing purge of thousands of military personnel, judges, and police officers accused of involvement in last weekend’s failed coup attempt.

The U.S. diplomat’s remarks, delivered at a meeting of the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers, came as authorities acting on behalf of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked more than 8,000 police officers and officials in a massive effort launched in the aftermath of the coup, according to the Washington Post and Reuters.

Erdogan has already alarmed outside observers by detaining more than 6,000 military and civilian personnel, Turkey’s justice minister confirmed on Sunday. On Monday, Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for regional affairs, suggested that Erdogan had been ready for a crackdown. The arrests showed “at least [that] something has been prepared” because “lists are available already,” Hahn said.

“A lot of people have been arrested and arrested very quickly,” Kerry told journalists. “The level of vigilance and scrutiny is going to be very significant in the days ahead.”

He noted that NATO, which Turkey has been a member of since 1952, “has a requirement with respect to democracy, and NATO will indeed measure very carefully what is happening.”

At the same gathering, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was asked about Erdogan’s recent suggestion that Turkey may reinstate the death penalty, a measure the country abolished in 2004 as part of its effort to join the EU. “No country can become an EU member state if it introduces death penalty,” she said.

Kerry said he spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu several times over the weekend and had received assurances that Ankara will respect the democratic process. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby clarified on Monday that there is no immediate threat of Turkey losing its NATO membership but that “we are all watching what they are doing.”

“We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes beyond that and stress the importance of the democratic rule being upheld,” Kerry said.

According to Turkish media reports, prosecutors have interrogated dozens of generals over the attempted overthrow of the current government. Authorities reportedly fired at least 30 governors, steps that have chipped away at the initial international backing of Erdogan’s government against what has widely been seen as an illegal effort to depose a democratically elected, though increasingly authoritarian, leader.

This post was updated at 10:14 a.m. on July 18, 2016.

Photo credit: Anadolu Agency/Contributor/Getty Images

John Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013. @john_hudson

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