ISTANBUL — The U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced Sunday that it was suspending all non-immigrant visa services at diplomatic facilities across Turkey, in what appeared to be an act of retaliation after Turkey arrested an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul last week.
In a statement, the embassy said the move was aimed at limiting visitors to the U.S. mission while the United States “reassesses” Turkey’s commitment to the security of American personnel, an extraordinary admission that underscores the fraught ties between the onetime allies.
The decision follows the arrest last week of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, whom authorities here accused of espionage. The embassy said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest and called the allegations “wholly untrue.”
On Friday, U.S. Ambassador John Bass met with Turkish reporters in Ankara and said Topuz was being tried “through media outlets” rather than in a court of law.
“That does not strike me as pursuing justice,” Bass said, according to local media reports. “It seems to me more a pursuit of vengeance.”
U.S. diplomatic personnel have been restricted in their movements in Turkey after terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016. On Sept. 28, the State Department issued a travel warning for Turkey, advising citizens of threats from terrorist groups.
The warning said American citizens have been arrested in the security crackdown launched by Turkish authorities after a failed coup in 2016, and U.S consular officials have faced delays in getting permission for visits. Though Turkey is a NATO ally, the warning also said that there has been heightened anti-American rhetoric and that foreign tourists and expatriates had been targeted for kidnapping and killing.
Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.