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Washington rejects Turkey's minister's statement that US was behind 2016 coup attempt

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The US State Department said on Thursday assertions by Turkish officials that the United States was involved in a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey were "wholly false."

"The United States had no involvement in the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey and promptly condemned it. Recent assertions to the contrary made by senior Turkish officials are wholly false," the State Department said.

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"These remarks and other unfounded and irresponsible claims of US responsibility for events in Turkey are inconsistent with Turkey’s status as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States," it added.

Turkey's interior minister Suleyman Soylu told the Hurriyet daily the United States had managed the coup attempt while US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen's network carried it out.

"It is blatantly clear the United States is behind July 15. It was FETO who carried it out upon their orders," he said.

More than 250 people were killed in the attempt to overthrow President Tayyip Erdogan and his government on July 15, 2016 when rogue soldiers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to seize state institutions.

Ankara has long blamed preacher Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who lives in Pennsylvania, and launched a widespread crackdown on his network, which Ankara refers to by the acronym 'FETO'. Gulen denies any involvement.

The US has repeatedly rejected Turkish demands for Gulen's extradition, citing a lack of credible evidence from Ankara.

Ankara is seeking to repair strained ties with Washington, which last year sanctioned Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defence systems, and with the European Union. The EU has threatened measures against Ankara over a dispute with Greece in the east Mediterranean.

Turkey has said in recent weeks that it achieved a "positive agenda" with the EU, and that it wants to improve relations with the United States under President Joe Biden. He is expected to be tougher on Ankara over its record on human rights, which has worried Turkey's Western allies.

Since the failed coup, Turkey has detained some 292,000 people over suspected links to Gulen and has suspended or sacked more than 150,000 civil servants. Hundreds of media outlets have been shut and dozens of opposition lawmakers have been jailed.

- With Reuters

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