ANKARA (Reuters) - The United States has primed a bomb in the Middle East with its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday.
Yildirim said Turkey’s stark differences with Washington, which have already strained ties between the NATO allies, meant that an overwhelming majority of the Turkish people were now unsympathetic toward the United States.
“The United States has pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region,” Yildirim told a conference in Ankara.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and promising to move the U.S. Embassy there.
Following the decision, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul; on Thursday, there was a heavy police presence with uniformed soldiers patrolling the roof.
“Today, more than 80 percent of our citizens are cold towards the United States and they are right to be so,” Yildirim said, without giving a source for the figure.
Bilateral relations had already been hurt by Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen by Ankara as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has for decades waged an insurgency against the Turkish state.
In addition, Ankara has been angered by the United States’ refusal to extradite U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of orchestrating last year’s attempted military coup.
U.S. officials say the courts have not been shown sufficient evidence to extradite Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the coup.
Turkey also says the case of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is on trial in New York and cooperating with U.S. prosecutors, is an attempt to discredit it and undermine its economy. Zarrab has pleaded guilty to helping Iran avoid U.S. sanctions and detailed a vast international money laundering scheme.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan; Editing by David Dolan and Kevin Liffey