US told Turkey carriers sent near Israel are for possible evacuations, official says
PHOTO CAPTION: A U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate guides an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter for landing on the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64), October 10, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts that aircraft carriers moved closer to Israel in the eastern Mediterranean were sent there for the possible evacuation of civilians, a Turkish defence ministry official said on Thursday.
The U.S. has deployed two aircraft carriers - and their support ships - to the eastern Mediterranean since a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel this month.
President Tayyip Erdogan criticised the U.S. for the move, saying that they would commit "serious massacres" in Gaza.
He also said the deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers to the region hindered Turkish efforts to establish calm in the region.
"When we raise this issue with our U.S. counterparts, they tell us that those aircraft carrier groups were sent there as part of non-combatant evacuation operations for civilians in the region," a Turkish defence ministry official told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier said that the deployment of aircraft carrier battle groups to the region was "not meant as a provocation, it's meant as a deterrent".
(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Daren Butler and Nick Macfie)