US, Turkey halt visa services over escalating diplomatic row

  • Diplomatic relation strained following the arrest of a Turkish employee at the US consulate for his alleged involvement in July 2016 coup

ANKARA – The United States and Turkey have suspended visa issuing services in each other’s countries owing to souring diplomatic relations following the arrest of a US consulate staffer in Istanbul.

On October 4, the Turkish authorities arrested a Turkish national working with the American mission for his alleged involvement in the failed July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoga.

Enraged over the arrest, the US authorities halted visa services and later the Turkish government responded in the same way.

A statement from the US mission in Turkey on Sunday says, “Recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel. In Order to minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey”.

The move came two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump and President Recep Erdogan met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Trum had said the Turkish leader “is becoming a friend of mine” and “frankly, he’s getting high marks.”

On Thursday (Oct 5), the US termed the allegation against the staffer “wholly without merit,” adding, “It is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a locally-employed staff member of the U.S. Consulate General Istanbul on October 4, and by leaks from Turkish government sources seemingly aimed at try the employee in the media rather than a court of law”.

In response, Turkish authorities said that detained citizen was not part of the American mission but a “local employee”.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin defending the arrest said, “there must be serious evidence”. He also referred a phone call made by the arrested official to a key suspect on the night when attempt was made for coup.

It is important to mention here that latest arrest followed apprehension of a Turkish employee at the US consulate in March from southern city of Adana on allegations of supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).