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US urges Turkey, Europe to ‘tone down rhetoric’ amid escalating tensions

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US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Thursday that Turkey and European countries should “tone down the rhetoric” amid escalating tensions that started after the cancellation of Turkish officials’ programs in the EU to campaign for an upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey.

Speaking during a press briefing on Thursday, Toner said, “I think what we’ve said about some of the back and forth that we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks – that we want to see everyone get along and to tone down the rhetoric.”

Underlining that Washington encourages Ankara’s aspirations to integrate with the Euro-Atlantic community, Toner also added that Turkey is an important ally and friend of the US.

“ … Turkey is an ally, obviously, a strong partner, certainly, with respect to ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], and a friend. We support Turkey’s aspirations to engage with Europe. I’m not going to speak to what is an issue between Turkey and Europe, and the EU, rather specifically. That’s for them to work out, but as much as Turkey wants to pursue that integration with the Euro-Atlantic community on an economic level, we’d encourage that,” he said.

Turkey’s relations with various European countries have recently become strained due to the cancellation of rallies planned to be conducted by Turkish ministers in order to seek the support of Turkish expatriates for a referendum in Turkey on April 16 that will expand President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s powers and change Turkey into an executive presidency.

Answering a question regarding US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s potential visit to Turkey at the end of March, Toner said there is “nothing to announce yet.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had recently said his US counterpart would pay a visit to Turkey on March 30.

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