Turkey’s president on Thursday ordered his government not to purchase U.S.-made semi-automatic handguns for the Turkish police force in response to a U.S. decision to suspend visa services in Turkey.
“I am telling Mr. [Interior] Minister, right here. Our police force won’t use a pistol named SIG Sauer. It shouldn’t,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to governors in Ankara.
The statement was an apparent rejection of the purchase of U.S.-made weapons that had earlier stalled. SIG Sauer was to sell pistols worth $1.2 million to the Turkish government in the summer, but the U.S. Senate blocked the purchase last month in response to assaults on protestors by Erdogan’s bodyguards in Washington D.C. two months earlier.
Erdogan committed to use only Turkish-made guns for the police force. He noted that Turkish companies already manufacture similar pistols, and added that Turkey would become stronger if it used locally manufactured weapons. “We are becoming lazy [in manufacturing] as long as we keep buying from them. There is no need for that,” he said.
He also downplayed speculation that the widening rift with the United States would hurt Turkey economically, claiming that trade between the countries has already dropped to around $15 billion, mainly made up of purchases from U.S. arms manufacturers.
The ongoing feud between the U.S. and Turkey is a remarkable public break between the two NATO allies. Ankara imposed a reciprocal embargo on issuing visas in the U.S. just hours after a decision by Washington to suspend non-immigrant visa services in Turkey.
Erdogan reiterated on Thursday the government line that U.S. ambassador John Bass is personally responsible for the latest diplomatic rupture.
The simmering tension between the two nations broke into public view this week after Turkey arrested a longtime employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, drawing a sharp rebuke from the U.S. government.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday spoke to his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to express “profound concern” over the detention of Turkish employees of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Turkey and of several American citizens.
Secretary Tillerson's Call With Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Cavusoglu pic.twitter.com/GMQcU4Euo7
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) October 12, 2017
Tillerson emphasized the importance of transparency in the accusations made by the Turkish government and the need to present evidence behind the accusations.