Rick Perry suggested it might be time to kick Turkey out of NATO

Texas governor and U.S. presidential hopeful Rick Perry suggested it might be time to kick Turkey out of NATO, saying the country was being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists during Fox News’ South Carolina debate. 

“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 […] not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong in NATO but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it,” the Mediaite website quoted Perry as saying. 

In addition to asking whether Turkey still belonged in NATO, moderator Bret Baier had asked the Republican hopeful about the Turkey’s “Islamist” governing party Justice and Development Party (AKP) and outlined many of the problems going on in the country, including the high number of women who have been murdered, worsening press freedom and deteriorating relations with Israel and Greek Cyprus since the AKP came to power.

Reaction from Turkey

Turkey has “moved far away from the country it once was in the 1970s,” Perry said, referring to the time when he was stationed in Turkey as a pilot. Ömer Çelik, deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), slammed Perry’s comments. “It seems that Perry hangs ‘wanted poster’ wherever he sees Muslim statement and sing pleasently “dead or live.” “The statements are utterly ignorant.”

Victoria Coates, foreign policy advisor to Perry, explained the governor’s remarks, saying some view the leaders of Turkey as “Islamic terrorists” due to their support of Hamas and the 2010 Gaza flotilla.

“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,” Coates told reporters, ABC News website reported.

Asked if Turkey’s leaders had performed any actions which placed them in the category of Islamic terrorists, Coates said: “What he said was that many people associate that kind of behavior with that of Islamic terrorists. I also think of their support for the flotilla against Israel [in 2010]. 

It’s deeply concerning, and I think it’s something any future American president needs to be aware of.” In May 2010, six ships led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara tried to reach the coastal strip but were intercepted by Israeli commandos, who stormed the boats, killing nine Turkish activists and sparking a diplomatic crisis with Ankara.