Turkey urges US to reverse visa halt, summons staffer

Adjust Comment Print

Steven Cook, at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Amanda Sloat, a former Obama administration official, both used the phrase in September at a US Senate hearing on Turkey.

Turkey arrested a locally hired employee of the USA consulate in Istanbul last week, sparking a fierce diplomatic spat between the two countries that came to a head over the weekend when each country suspended consular services in the other. After 24 hours, the Turkish embassy in Washington retaliated by issuing a statement that is quite an identical statement to the one released by the U.S. Embassy.

Hours after the United States announcement, Turkey issued an nearly identical statement with the two countries' names reversed.

Erdogan has often said he is closely following the case involving Turkish citizens.

A statement from US mission to Turkey, read "all non-immigrant visa services at all USA diplomatic services in Turkey" were suspended. The new restrictions mean that Turkish tourists, students, diplomats, journalists, and businesspeople will be barred from getting the paperwork needed to visit the US.

Ironically, the new diplomatic row between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies came less than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump said bilateral ties between two sides were "close as we have ever been".

This wasn't even an American citizen who was taken in. An online system for obtaining visas was shut down Sunday night. American officials say Turkey hasn't yet presented persuasive evidence of his involvement. The staff member, Turkish national Metin Topuz, has been accused of having links to Pennsylvania-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey vigorously demanded the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of masterminding an unsuccessful attempt to topple the government of Turkey in the month of July previous year. According to the Turkish government, Gulen is behind the attempted coup of 2016. Topuz is the second U.S. government employee in Turkey to be arrested this year.

"US consulate worker N.M.C., husband and father of the suspects in question, has no diplomatic immunity and has been called to the prosecutor's office to testify", Anadolu quoted a statement from the Istanbul prosecutor's office as saying.

As relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies worsen, their long-standing military alliance is of particular concern.

Longtime allies, the suspensions are the latest barb in a steady decline in relations over the last couple of years, at a time when both face unsafe new threats.

Turkey's cooperation is also crucial for the U.S.as it tries to interdict Westerners traveling in and out of Syria to fight with ISIS and al Qaeda's affiliate, especially as ISIS crumbles on the battlefield and many of those foreign fighters are fleeing. It is home to attack aircraft and drones, and tankers capable of refueling other planes in midair. The ministry said the move had caused "unnecessary escalation" and "victimised" both Turkish and USA citizens. Prosecutors said they were led to the pair after interrogating Topuz.

Major U.S. exports to Turkey include aircraft, metals and agricultural goods.

"It's a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, and there is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation base in Turkey which the U.S. uses".

Turkey is also livid with America, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, for arming a Kurdish militia it considers a terrorist group in the war against the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) in neighbouring Syria.

Operations in Syria were affected after the coup attempt in July 2016, with the airspace over Turkey closed and electricity cut to Incirlik for more than a week. The Incirlik air base in Turkey where US forces are deployed has been an important asset for USA air power in eastern Mediterranean.

"If the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were to lose access, we would have to shift operations to more distant air bases", he said.