Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has implied to expel US Ambassador to Ankara for his alleged remarks regarding a major graft probe in which four ministers face allegations of bribery and wrongdoing, and the state bank Halkbank is accused of for links to suspicious money transactions and gold-smuggling from Iran.
According to a report pro-government Yenişafak daily, the US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told EU ambassadors in Ankara in a meeting on Dec. 17, the beginning of the graft probe, that the US asked Turkey to Halkbank’s financial ties with Iran.
"We requested end of financial ties of Halkbank with Iran. But they didn’t listen. You are watching collapse of an empire [Turkey],” said Ricciardone, according to Yenişafak, regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged bribery and tender rigging.
Speaking at a rally in northern province of Samsun on Saturday, Erdoğan again struck a defiant tone, adamantly rejected any wrongdoing, deeming the corruption case as an international plot to weaken Turkey’s growing economic and political clout and topple the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
"We are not forced to keep you [Ricciardone] here. We can also withdraw our ambassador from that country if their ambassador keeps involving in provocative remarks and incidents,” said Erdoğan, in reference to the Yenişafak’s report, implying to expel US ambassador.