European Union (EU) officials and diplomatic representatives of European countries have denied claims that the People's Republican Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce was asked whether he would prosecute President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan if elected, at a meeting with EU ambassadors in Istanbul on May 22.
A diplomatic source, who attended the meeting, told Daily Sabah on condition of anonimity: "Such a question was not asked in the meeting. I would definitely recall if it was asked."
He added that diplomats do not have the right to ask such questions. İnce had a meeting with the EU ambassadors during an iftar dinner attended by a number of ambassadors. The meeting was closed to the press and not announced by any participant country's embassy or EU delegation in Turkey in advance.
In a televised interview Thursday night, İnce claimed: "I was asked whether I would put Erdoğan on trial or not. No, I will not. I do not have any authority as such."
Upon his remarks a journalist asked if the ambassadors asked this question, he said "no." But he later added that: "Yes, they asked it as well."
Another representative from the EU also confirmed Daily Sabah that this question was definitely not asked. The source, however, assumed that there might be some mistakes in the translation but they would not ask such questions.
İnce will run as a presidential candidate in the upcoming June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections. He will run against President and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Answering Daily Sabah's questions, an EU official in Turkey underlined that contrary to İnce's claim, such question was not directed by any of the EU ambassadors who attended the meeting.
Following the meeting, the EU Delegation posted a text on its webpage underlining that "Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey Ambassador Christian Berger and the ambassadors of the EU member states are exchanging views in the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey. In this context, the ambassadors met yesterday the presidential candidate of main opposition CHP, Muharrem İnce, at a fast breaking dinner. They heard from İnce his electoral pledges, his campaign and visits across the country. EU ambassadors will continue meeting with the candidates before the elections are held."
İnce's televised remarks have raised question marks about the content of the meeting and whether the presidential hopeful is manipulating the content of discussions or the envoys actually asked such a controversial question.
Recently, İnce has faced criticism over his anti-American, anti-migrant statements.
İnce exposes anti-migrant stance
In the interview Thursday, İnce also made some controversial remarks regarding the Syrian refugees in Turkey. He said that "There are 4 million Syrians. They go to Syria during the Eid, they stay there for 10 days and come back." He underlined that if they are able to stay there, they should live there permanently. "When they went for a holiday, I would close the door and they would stay there, is this a public soup-kitchen?" İnce asked, in a threatening tone.
Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu also pledged last year in August that the CHP would send nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, who fled the civil war in their country, back to Syria if it came to power in the election, claiming: "We want the Syrians in Turkey to go back to their country. That is clear." Prior to the June 7 general election in 2015, Kılıçdaroğlu had pledged that the CHP would send all Syrian refugees back to their country if it came to power after the June 7 general elections. "[The CHP] will send the 2 million Syrian refugees back to their country," he said on April 26, 2015, while speaking in the western Edirne province.
Slams the US over S-400 comments
During the interview, İnce also criticized the U.S. when he was asked a question about Turkey's purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia.
He said, "The U.S. cannot be concerned with Turkey's purchase of the missiles from Russia."
The main opposition candidate in Turkey's upcoming presidential elections, İnce also vowed to deny the U.S. a key military base by Christmas unless the U.S. extradites the leader of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), Fetullah Gülen.
"If you [the U.S.] don't hand him back, we will shut down İncirlik [Air Base] and send back U.S. soldiers on Dec. 24 and they can celebrate Christmas with their families," he said on May 16.
Last December, Turkey officially signed a $2.5 billion agreement with Russia for the S-400s, Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile systems, with an aim of addressing its growing defense needs. Turkey will be the first NATO member country to acquire the system, however, some U.S. officials and some Western allies of Ankara, have criticized the move.