The strained U.S. relations with Turkey are beginning to improve, but will require much more work, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“I think we are working very hard to rebuild that level of trust that is the basis for any relationship,” Tillerson said, speaking Monday with the staff and families of the U.S. Mission in Istanbul.
“It is important for so many reasons, which is why we must put the relationship on the mend, re-establish it on the proper basis and strengthen it going forward,” he said, citing the war in Syria as one of the issues on which the two countries have made progress, but must continue to work on together.
Tillerson spoke a day after commemorating the one-year anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey, praising the courage of the Turkish people in defending democracy but failing to mention the widespread government crackdown that has followed.
Tillerson also thanked the staff members for their work during challenging times between the two countries.
“I appreciate what you’re doing for us here.I know it can be, from time to time, a challenging post,” he said.
Speaking Sunday at an oil conference in Istanbul, Tillerson said the United States sees Turkey as a partner in its push for greater energy security in the region, and “looks forward to engaging with Turkey on projects that will increase global energy security.”
More than 240 people, many of them civilians, died the night of the failed coup, which was marked by pitched battles in Ankara between branches of the police and army.
Since last July, in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s post coup crackdown, more than 100,000 people have been fired or suspended from their jobs in Turkey’s civil and private sectors, and the government has jailed more than 40,000 others on a variety of charges, alleging they were involved in anti-government activities.Many of the prisoners have not yet been brought to court to answer the accusations against them; many also have complained of abuse and ill-treatment during the time in custody.