The State Department said Tuesday it "absolutely and fundamentally" disagrees with Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's remark during Monday's debate in South Carolina that Turkey is "ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists."
"We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in response to questions about the Texas governor's remarks.
"Rest assured that we believe that Turkey is a stalwart ally," said Mr. Toner. "Turkey is one of the oldest members of NATO ... "
A strong U.S. partner, Turkey not only has taken a "courageous stand against what's going on in Syria" but also often is cited as "an example of a so-called Islamic democracy in action," he said.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry condemned Mr. Perry's remarks, noting that the country "joined NATO while the governor was still 2 years old."
Namık Tan, Turkey's ambassador to the United States, described Mr. Perry's remark as "misplaced and ill-advised" and called his nation "an essential and trusted partner of the U.S."
"Our bilateral relations are based on the common values of democracy and respect for human rights, rule of law, and free market economy," he said.
"Whether in the fight against terrorism or violent extremism, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or against the proliferation of WMD [weapons of mass destruction], we stand side by side to tackle the many common threats and challenges of our times."
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