US sus­pends visa ser­vices in Turkey af­ter ar­rest of con­sular staff; Turkey re­tal­i­ates in es­ca­lat­ing row

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Is­tan­bul, Turkey - The United States and Turkey on Sun­day scaled back visa is­su­ing ser­vices in each other’s coun­tries in a deep­en­ing diplo­matic row sparked by the ar­rest of a Turk­ish staffer at the Amer­i­can mis­sion in Is­tan­bul.

The Amer­i­can em­bassy in Ankara said that “re­cent events” forced the US gov­ern­ment to re­assess Turkey’s “com­mit­ment” to the se­cu­rity of US mis­sion ser­vices and per­son­nel in the coun­try. In or­der to min­imise the num­ber of vis­i­tors while the as­sess­ment is car­ried out, “ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately we have sus­pended all non­im­mi­grant visa ser­vices at all US diplo­matic fa­cil­i­ties in Turkey,” it said.

Turkey re­sponded by sus­pend­ing “all visa ser­vices” for Amer­i­cans in the US, say­ing the mea­sures also ap­ply to visas is­sued on­line and at the bor­der.

Be­yond its men­tion of “re­cent events”, the Amer­i­can em­bassy state­ment made no ex­plicit men­tion of the ar­rest by Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties of a lo­cal Turk­ish staffer work­ing at the US con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

The em­ployee was re­manded in cus­tody by an Is­tan­bul court late on Wed­nes­day on ac­cu­sa­tions of links to the group of US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for last year’s failed coup against Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. The staffer has been for­mally charged with es­pi­onage and seek­ing to over­throw the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment.

The US em­bassy on Thurs­day said it was “deeply dis­turbed” over the ar­rest and re­jected the al­le­ga­tions against the em­ployee as “wholly with­out merit”.

It also con­demned leaks in the lo­cal press which it said came from Turk­ish gov­ern­ment sources that were “seem­ingly aimed at try­ing the em­ployee in the me­dia rather than a court of law”.

But Er­do­gan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has de­fended the ar­rest, say­ing “there must be se­ri­ous ev­i­dence” and point­ing to a phone call made from the con­sulate to a key sus­pect on the night of the coup.


A Turk­ish po­lice of­fi­cer at the en­trance of US con­sulate in Is­tan­bul

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