Perpetrators of assault on US sailors will 'pay the price', says Turkish Foreign Minister

A screenshot from YouTube showing the attack on three US sailors by members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union on a crowded street in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkey's Foreign Minister on Friday described an assault on US sailors in Istanbul this w
A screenshot from YouTube showing the attack on three US sailors by members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union on a crowded street in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkey's Foreign Minister on Friday described an assault on US sailors in Istanbul this week as reprehensible and vowed that the attackers would "pay the price for their actions." -- PHOTO: YOUTUBE

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Turkey's Foreign Minister on Friday described an assault on US sailors in Istanbul this week as reprehensible and vowed that the attackers would "pay the price for their actions."

Members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union attacked three US sailors on a crowded street in Istanbul on Wednesday, shouting "Yankee go home", throwing paint and trying to pull hoods over their heads.

Video footage was later posted on the group's website.

Twelve people were detained but released by an Istanbul court on Thursday. They could still face charges for causing insult and injury, however.

"The relevant Turkish authorities are conducting a full investigation... We will take all necessary precautions to ensure that such isolated incidents do not occur again," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Australia.

Anti-American sentiment is running high in Turkey, with a recent poll indicating only 19 percent of Turks have a favourable view of the United States.

Diplomatic relations have been strained since last year over US criticism of the Turkish authorities' crackdown on anti-government protests and the handling of a corruption scandal linked to the inner circle of President Tayyip Erdogan.

More recently, Turkey's unwillingness to take an active role in the fight against Islamic State has also caused friction.

Officials in both countries stressed the importance of the relationship, however.

Cavusoglu offered his sympathies to the three sailors, who were not injured.

"Through thick and thin, the people of Turkey welcome them and all their brothers and sisters in arms, into their homes and hearts as long-standing friends and partners," Cavusoglu added.

The US embassy condemned the attack on Wednesday and added: "(We) have no doubt the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey's reputation for hospitality."