Turkey condemns Perry, questions his grasp of foreign affairs

Turkey has condemned Rick Perry for saying the United States should consider cutting foreign aid to the country and removing it from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

In a strongly worded response issued Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry questioned the Texas governor's grasp of foreign policy and said the United States shouldn't waste time with presidential candidates "who do not even know America’s Allies."

"Those individuals who are candidates for positions requiring responsibility such as the U.S. presidency are expected to be more knowledgeable on global affairs and more careful in their statements," a spokesman for the ministry said in a statement. 

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"Turkey became a member of NATO when the Governor was just two years old. It is a member which contributed significantly to the Transatlantic Alliance’s history of braving many challenges and it will continue to do so. Turkey has also been among the front line countries in the fight against terrorism," the statement continued. 

During a debate Monday evening hosted by Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, moderator Bret Baier asked Perry if Turkey's membership in NATO should continue.

"Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there," Baier asked. "Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The prime minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cyprus. Given Turkey’s turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?"

In response, Perry said it was worth considering barring Turkey from NATO and zeroing out its foreign aid. 

"Well, obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes," Perry said. "Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it."

Turkey said Perry's flagging poll numbers are evidence that Republican voters do not share his views.

"The weak support that Mr. Perry received at the opinion polls and the primaries has revealed that his unfortunate views are not shared by the Republican Party grassroots," the statement concluded. "This reflects the commonsense of the U.S. electorate. The U.S. has no time to lose with such candidates who do not even know America’s Allies."

In a similar statement, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, said he was "disappointed" by Perry's remarks.

"I am disappointed and concerned that Turkey and its time-tested ties of alliance, partnership and friendship with the United States became the object of misplaced and ill-advised criticism during last night’s Republican candidates’ debate," Tan said in a statement. 

In responding to Baier, Perry cited his time in Turkey while he was serving in the Air Force in the 1970s. Tan said things had obviously changed since then. 

"Turkey is obviously not the same country that Governor Perry visited in the 1970s,"  Tan said. "While it was unfortunate, we do hope this episode in last night’s debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates, one where long-standing allies are treated with respect not disdain."

After the debate, Perry's handlers said he was only referring to Baier's references to Turkey and Islamic terrorism.

"The governor was responding to the questioner's references to violence against women and to association with Hamas, I think both of which are things that many people do associate, as he said, with Islamic terrorists," Perry foreign policy adviser Victoria Coates said shortly after the debate.

Perry's comments sparked angry responses from the Turkish press and foreign ministry. Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the Turkish Hürriyet Daily News called Perry an "idiot" over Twitter, according to CNN.

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