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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters in an interview on Monday that the United States should “not harbor a terrorist” like US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and that his activities should be banned around the world.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies involvement in Turkey’s failed coup in July and Washington has said it will extradite him only if Turkey provides evidence, much to the Turkish government’s frustration.
Erdogan said Washington had “no excuse” for keeping hold of Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who Turkish officials say has built up a network of followers over decades inside the armed forces and civil service to take over Turkey.
“If the US is our strategic ally and our NATO partner … then they should not let a terrorist like Gulen run his organisation,” Erdogan said, in an interview on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.
Erdogan said a three-months state of emergency declared in the wake of the coup could be extended by parliament.
“It can be extended for three months or one month … it is up to the parliament to decide about it,” he said.
Erdogan also said that NATO member Turkey believes that no lasting peace can be achieved in Syria without removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power.
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“The future of Syria should be determined by its own people … Why this killer (Assad) is being backed by some states? … Assad cannot be part of any transitional period … the world should find a solution that does not involve Assad,” he said. “Syria’s territorial integrity should be respected by other countries.”
Iran and Russia are key allies of Assad, standing by him since an uprising against his regime broke out in 2011.
On the European Union, and Turkey’s decades-long efforts to join the trading bloc, Erdogan said: “Turkey has kept its promises regarding the EU membership process … it is a two-way street and the EU should fulfill its promises.
“We have not concluded this process … we want the EU to be honest about this process,” he said.