Turkey summons US diplomat in tense visa spat


State-run news agency Anadolu reported that the Foreign Ministry planned to tell Philip Kosnett of the US mission in Ankara that they expected the US to lift its visa suspension, which affects all non-immigrant visa services in the country.

The latest tit-for-tat between Ankara and Washington began last week, when a staff member from the US consulate in Istanbul was arrested.

Washington responded with the visa freeze and Ankara responded by doing the same.

With some exceptions, the move effectively blocks Turks from travel to the United States, and vice versa, indefinitely.

“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission and personnel,” a statement by the US mission in Ankara said on Sunday.

Hours after the US announcement, Turkey issued an almost identical statement with the two countries’ names reversed.

Another US consular employee sought

State media named locally-hired Metin Topuz as the staff member arrested last week.

He is the second US consular staff member to be detained this year.

Topuz was charged for having links with Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.
Fethullah Gulen: A rare look at polarizing Turkish exile

Gulen is considered the main adversary of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the President blames the cleric for orchestrating an attempted military coup last year. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup.

The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement published by Anadolu on Monday that a third US consular staff member was being sought for questioning.

That staff member’s wife and adult child have already been arrested over alleged connections to the Gulen movement, the statement said. Prosecutors said they were led to the pair after interrogating Topuz.

Ankara has repeatedly pressured Washington to extradite Gulen since the coup, and the issue has become a major thorn in relations between the on-again-off-again allies.

Turkey has carried out a widespread purge since the failed coup, detaining tens of thousands of people it accuses of having links to Gulen, including several non-diplomatic US citizens.

NASA physicist Serkan Golge and American pastor Andrew Brunson are among them.

In February, another US consular staff member, Hamza Ulucay, was arrested over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which both Turkey and the US consider a terrorist organization. Ulucay, a translator, was released and then re-arrested in March.

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