WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States called on all parties in Turkey to support President Tayyip Erdogan's government against a coup attempt on Friday as world leaders expressed concern about the upheaval in a NATO member country that bridges Europe and the Middle East.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone and gave their support to Erdogan after Turkey's military said it had seized power. "The President and Secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed,"the White House said in a statement.
US government sources said a coup attempt was under way in Turkey but it was unclear who was prevailing.
Erdogan vowed that the attempted coup would be put down.
Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003 and if the coup against him is successful it would be one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years.
The sharp-tongued Erdogan is often accused of authoritarian rule at home and has frequently fallen out with neighbors such as Israel, Iran, Russia and the European Union as he tried to carve out a greater role for Turkey in the Middle East.
But Turkey has long been a key ally for Washington, including in the current fight against Islamic State, despite accusations that Erdogan has eroded human rights and press freedoms.
Gunfire was heard near the Turkish General Staff Headquarters in Ankara, where defensive forces were being deployed, a US government source said. The State Department told US citizens in Turkey to "shelter in place and stay indoors." The United States uses the Incirlik air base in Turkey to launch strikes against Islamic State, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq. It said those operations had not been affected by the upheaval.
EU SEEKS RESTRAINT EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for calm in Turkey. "Call for restraint and respect for democratic institutions," she tweeted from an EU-Asia summit in Mongolia.
Ties between Turkey and Germany - vital partners in efforts to curb mass migration to Europe - have been strained since the Bundestag passed a resolution in June branding the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a genocide. Ankara recalled its ambassador and threatened unspecified retaliation.
Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim nation which has long been a regional rival to Sunni majority Turkey, said on Friday it was deeply concerned about the crisis in the neighboring country. "Stability, democracy and safety of Turkish people are paramount. Unity and prudence are imperative," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on his Twitter account.
In Syria, hundreds of cheering government supporters took to the streets of Damascus early on Saturday and celebratory gunfire erupted after Turkey's army said it seized power from Erdogan, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main foes in the region.
Residents said convoys of cars circled around the Mazzeh district of the Syrian capital, with people waving flags and shouting: "God, Syria and Bashar!". There were similar celebrations in other government-held cities.
Assad's government has accused Erdogan of fuelling Syria's five-year conflict by supporting Islamist insurgents battling Damascus and allowing foreign jihadis to cross the border from Turkey into Syria.
The Kremlin said it was gravely concerned about events in Turkey, and that it had instructed officials to help Russian nationals in Turkey return home at the earliest opportunity.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that President Vladimir Putin was being kept constantly updated on the situation in Turkey.
Britain's new foreign minister, Boris Johnson, said he was"very concerned" by events in Turkey, where many thousands of British and other European holiday-makers were spending summer vacations.