Only the Turkish nation – not someone from the US or other country – can decide to change its government and president, Turkey’s top diplomat said Sunday, referring to US presidential front-runner Joe Biden’s controversial remarks on Turkey.

“We strongly reject such impositions,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency following his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Dominican Republic, adding that Biden’s remarks that he could support opposition to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the 2023 elections are “ignorant” and fail to recognize the Turkish nation.

He also said it was “strange” that a person who has been nominated to lead the US made such “ignorant comments” on Turkey, and that he doesn’t know the truth about his own country.

In a video clip that went viral, presumptive US Democratic nominee Biden said: “We can support those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.”

Referring to Biden’s “not by a coup” remark, Cavusoglu said he understood this to mean: “We tried a coup in the past, it didn’t happen. So now let’s change tactics and methods.”

Biden’s remarks – recorded last December but first reported on Saturday – drew condemnation from the entire political spectrum in Turkey, including both the government and opposition.

Cavusoglu stressed that Turkish elections are held democratically and transparently, adding that Turkey now has power both in the field and at the negotiating table.

Cavusoglu and Pompeo also discussed the situation in Libya, and decided to continue discussions at the expert level.

Turkish-US relations have been under strain for a number of reasons such as Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, counter-terrorism operations in northern Syria against the YPG/PKK – a terror group the US has supported over Turkish objections for operations against Daesh/ISIS – and the US refusal to extradite terrorist leader Fetullah Gulen, accused of masterminding a 2016 defeated coup against Turkey that martyred 251 people and killed thousands.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian branch.

Biden is currently ahead in most US polls, but the Nov. 3 presidential elections are still months away.

UAE-Israel deal

Asked about the controversial deal between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel to normalize ties, Cavusoglu said: “Turkey’s stance [on this matter] is very clear. We have always been supporters of the Palestinian cause. This is our common cause.”

He rejected claims that Palestine is only a cause for Arabs, adding: “This is a sacred cause, and Jerusalem is our common cause.”

Supporting this cause is Turkey’s duty, just like other Muslims, he said.

The top diplomat stressed that the deal “kills the two-state solution and legitimizes annexation” of the West Bank, and only favors Israel, which failed to consult Palestine on the matter.

He highlighted that the agreement did not stop Israel’s annexation plans, but just postponed them, adding that this would never make them legitimate.

Last Thursday Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “still committed” to annexing parts of the West Bank, despite the UAE normalization deal. In a televised address, he said the deal includes a temporary suspension of the annexation plan.

The deal to normalize UAE-Israel ties was announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, forestalling Israel’s controversial plans to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank.

A joint statement by the US, UAE, and Israel said the “breakthrough” would promote “peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders,” referring to Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Netanyahu.

Palestinian groups denounced the new agreement, saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause and ignores the rights of the Palestinian people. The UAE’s peace deal with Israel is a “treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” Hamas said in a statement.

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