The president of one of America’s key allies tells Steve Kroft he is disillusioned. In an interview for 60 Minutes, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, criticized the U.S. for giving sanctuary to and drawing out the extradition process of his political rival, an Islamist cleric named Fethullah Gulen. Erdoğan blames the cleric, who lives in Pennsylvania -- and his followers -- for the military coup attempt that almost toppled Turkey’s government in July.
Erdoğan also says the U.S. has failed to handle the Syrian civil war and its effects on his country to his satisfaction. The Turkish leader Erdoğan’s interview is part of Kroft’s story about Turkey’s role in U.S. foreign policy as Donald Trump prepares to take over the White House. It will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
On Syria, Erdoğan says U.S. policy has led to a clear and present security threat on his southern border, interfered with his ability to defend his country and inundated Turkey with nearly three million refugees. Twice the number that has flooded into Europe.
“We have addressed these issues, discussed them with President Obama and Vice President Biden. They failed to rise to the occasion and handle these issues seriously. This is quite upsetting for us,” says Erdoğan. Asked if he was frustrated with the U.S., he replies, “Well, let me be very frank in my remarks and I’ve been known for my candor. I wouldn’t speak the truth if I said I was not disillusioned. Because I am disillusioned,” he tells Kroft.
On Gulen, the U.S. government says the cleric’s extradition depends on U.S. courts. It has also denied allegations that it is protecting the cleric or had any involvement in Turkey’s coup, a widespread suspicion in Turkey. Says Erdoğan, “I’m not going to blame the United States [for the coup]. But that’s what my people will think. Why are you still keeping that man? So as long you harbor him there, I’m sorry, don’t get offended. But this is the perception of the Turkish nation and the Turkish people.”