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US envoy visits Turkish opposition, angers President Erdogan

Turkish President Erdogan. enraged by US envoy meeting with opposition leader. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. (AFP)

Tensions have escalated between Turkey and the US after the American ambassador to Ankara met with the opposition candidate ahead of crucial elections.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the move saying the ambassador needs to know his place. Erdogan has also called on his supporters to teach the United States a lesson in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that upcoming elections should be a lesson to the US and that from now on doors are closed to US Ambassador, Jeffry Lane Flake, who last week met with Erdogan's main electoral rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

He said: "We need to teach America a lesson in these elections. Joe Biden speaks from there, what is Biden's Ambassador doing here? He goes to visit Mr. Kemal, it's a shame. Use your brain! You are the ambassador; your interlocutor here is the president".

He added: "Our doors are now closed to him. You cannot see me anymore. Why? You will know your limits".

According to a tweet from the US Embassy, Flake met with Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People's Party, CHP, on 29th of March as part of continuing conversations with Turkish political parties on issues of mutual interest between the two countries.

Also in early March, Ankara summoned Ambasador Flake over top US General Mark Milley's visits to northeast Syria.

This happened just weeks after the Turkish interior minister slammed the US envoy after Washington warned Ankara about exporting chemicals, microchips and other products to Russia.

Erdogan is fuming over the US envoy meeting with the opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is leading most polls, weeks before crucial elections.

According to the most recent opinion polls, released on March 27, Kilicdaroglu is ahead of Erdogan in voter intention by 2.5 percentage points.

The figures show Erdogan has been able to close the gap from earlier in the month when he was lagging by more than 10 percentage points.

Four different polling agencies suggest a possible seat change at the presidential palace in Ankara, with Kilicdaroglu leading the race with more than 50% of voters support. In contrast, support for Erdogan stands at 44% on average.

Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Turkey are scheduled for May 14.

Kilicdaroglu was nominated as the presidential candidate by an alliance of the country's six opposition parties.

Erdogan and his ruling AK Party are expected to face an uphill battle for re election following the devastating earthquake that killed over 50,000 people in the country in early February.

The US and Turkey, allies and strategic partners or paper, haven't had an easy relationship since 2014 when Washington decided to ally against ISIS with Kurdish YPG militants in Syria, who are viewed as terrorists by Ankara.

Since then, two more US administrations have been ensconced in Washington, yet, tensions and occasional shouting matches over a set of issues ranging from Turkey's purchase of Russian made S 400 air defense systems to the decision by Ankara to hold up Sweden's NATO bid have continued unabated.

After Ankara announced its decision to buy Russian S400 missile defense systems, the US removed turkey from its f 35 stealth fighter jet program.

Subsequently, when Sweden and Finland declared their NATO accession bid, it provided Erdogan with a trump card in his "hard ball games" with Turkey's Western allies.

And let's not forget the allegations of US involvement in the attempted coup against Erdogan's government in 2016.

 This has, consequently, fueled the anti American sentiment in Ankara which views the US as an unreliable ally. In addition Turkish media has reported that Erdogan might host Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in the near future for the inauguration of a nuclear power plant.

Erdogan has said his country is determined to proceed with the nuclear power plant project, despite objection from the opposition.

He noted that Putin may either travel to Turkey in person or attend via teleconference, the recent moves to condemn the US, give a cold shoulder to the US ambassador, and, to embrace Putin, might be part of the process of ramping up tensions with the US before elections in May.

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