In a rare explanation, President Barack Obama on Friday publically denied any US involvement in a failed coup in Turkey last week.
Obama, speaking at a news conference in Washington, said that he had explained his position to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a call earlier this week and reiterated that his country had no prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
"Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any US involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false, unequivocally false," Obama said.
"He (Erdogan) needs to make sure that, not just he but everybody in his government, understands that those reports are completely false," Obama added.
"Because when rumors like that start swirling around, that puts our people at risk on the ground in Turkey and it threatens what is a critical alliance and partnership between the United States and Turkey."
Reports of US involvement in the coup attempt, which were also denied earlier this week by the US ambassador to Turkey, appear to be partly fueled by the fact that cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, is accused of masterminding the bid to overthrow Erdogan's government.
In a crackdown on Gulen's suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.
But Obama repeated his administration’s stance on the Turkey's request to extradite Gulen, saying the country must first present evidence of Gulen's alleged complicity in the failed coup. An extradition request would then receive the review required by the Justice Department and other government agencies just like any other petition.
"America's governed by rules of law, and those are not ones that the president of the United States or anybody else can just set aside for the sake of expediency," Obama said. "We've got to go through a legal process."
John Kerry says U.S. would entertain extradition request for cleric Turkey's president blames for coup attempt. https://t.co/8i7dlYqWKU
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 16, 2016
Serdar Kilic, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, told a news conference on Friday that his country had submitted the "necessary documentation" for Gulen's extradition.