Republican candidate Rick Perry
Republican candidate Rick Perry Photo by AP
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Presidential hopeful Rick Perry questioned Turkey’s place in NATO, on Monday, claiming it is "being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists."

The Texan governor was vying for the support of South Carolina’s Republican Party in a debate sponsored by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party in Myrtle Beach.

"Obviously, when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens," Perry responding to a question about the rise in violence against women in Tureky. "Then yes, not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it".

Earlier the same day, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced he will be suspending his campaign, announcing his endorsement of Mitt Romney.

The participants spoke about negative ads flooding  South Carolina media these days. The various ads deal with job creation; the patriot act, the deficit; defended their record and campaign strategies (such as scathing attacks against the opponents); the killing of Osama Bin-Laden; illegal immigration and whether the U.S. should talk to Taliban.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner confirmed today that Perry's remarks complicate dealings with Turkey.

"We're not going to get into the substance of campaign politics", Toner said. "That said, rest assured that we believe that Turkey is a stalwart ally within NATO, as well as bilaterally. And we have a strong partnership with Turkey in addressing issues of regional and global security, as I said, both bilaterally and within NATO. Turkey is one of the oldest members of NATO and it's been a stalwart member of NATO and a strong ally to the United States. And we stand by our relationship".

In response to Perry's allegation, State Department's Toner said "We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion. Turkey is a strong partner in the region. We've seen it make a very courageous stand against what's going on in Syria, for example. It continues to play a very positive and constructive role in the region. And it is often cited an example of a so-called Islamic democracy in action."

Turkey lashed out at Perry earlier Tuesday, saying his comments were "baseless and improper", and adding that "the unfortunate views of Perry are not shared in any case by Republican party supporters, considering the weak support he has received in public polls and primary elections."

Perry told reporters Tuesday that he stands by his comments.

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