US expresses concern after Erdogan visit violence

May 18, 2017

Police secure the street outside the Turkish embassy during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

The United States on Wednesday expressed concern to Turkey in the "strongest possible terms" after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards clashed with protesters in Washington.

"Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Erdogan was in the US capital on Tuesday for apparently successful talks with President Donald Trump but his visit was marred by violence between his security detail and pro-Kurdish protesters.

Witnesses told AFP that Turkish bodyguards pushed past a Washington police cordon outside the Turkish ambassador's residence and set about the protesters with their fists and feet.

A police spokesman described the assault as a "brutal attack on a peaceful protest" and said investigators were studying video evidence and would seek to identify and question the suspects.

Two suspects -- not from Erdogan's detail -- were arrested at the scene and 11 people were hurt, nine of them badly enough to receive hospital treatment.

"We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel Tuesday evening," Nauert said.

"We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms."