ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The United States embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday announced that the US government had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.
A statement on the embassy’s official Twitter page said the “recent events forced” the Donald Trump administration to reassess the commitment of the Turkish government to the security of the US facilities and personnel.
In order to minimize the number of visitors to American embassy and consulates in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana respectively while that assessment proceeded, the suspension of all non-immigrant visas there was put in place effective immediately, read the statement.
The latest confrontation between Washington and Ankara, two NATO allies with strained ties, followed this week’s arrest by Turkish police of a US consulate employee in Istanbul.
Authorities arrested the man, a Turkey national identified only by the initials M.T., late Wednesday on charges of “espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey’s government.”
M.T. was charged with alleged links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for last year’s military coup attempt against his rule.
The US embassy in Ankara condemned the arrest saying it was “deeply disturbed,” dismissing the allegations as “wholly without merit.”
Erdogan has repeatedly demanded from Washington to extradite Gulen and even suggested a prisoner swap for the US to secure the freedom of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, held in Turkey for a year without a trial.
“It appears that leaked information from Turkish government sources was aimed at trying him in the media rather than a court of law,” the embassy added.
Tensions between the two governments have already been steadily increasing since 2014 over Washington’s support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) battling the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
This is not the first time Turkey has arrested a US consulate employee.
In February, police detained translator Hamza Ulucay of the US consulate in Adana, over alleged membership in the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group leading a Kurdish rebellion against the Turkish state.
An attack on peaceful Kurdish-American protestors last May by Erdogan’s security detail in Washington worsened the relations between the two sides, as DC authorities continue to seek the arrest of 15 of the Turkish President’s bodyguards.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Karzan Sulaivany)