U.S. reduces visa services to Turkey

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Flags of the United States and Turkey

Flags of the United States and Turkey

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The U.S. mission in Turkey on Sunday reduced visa services after a U.S. mission employee was detained in Turkey last week, Reuters reports.

The Turkish mission in Washington subsequently announced a similar move, with both sides saying they needed to reassess each other’s commitment to the security of their personnel.

The incident comes after a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul was arrested last week on charges of links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup.

The move was condemned by Washington as baseless and damaging to ties between the NATO allies.

“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel,” the statement by the mission in Ankara said, according to Reuters.

“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 Turkish embassy in Washington followed the U.S. example, and made virtually the same statement, only replacing the country names, noted Reuters.

The state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen and said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey’s government.

U.S.-Turkish tensions have risen over U.S. military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged an insurgency for three decades in southeast Turkey.

Gulen currently resides in exile in the United States. He leads a popular movement called Hizmet and split from Erdogan over a corruption scandal in 2013. Erdogan has long accused him of running a parallel state from abroad.

Turkey has pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Gulen over the July 2016 coup, in which more than 240 people were killed.

Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt and has hinted it could have been “staged” by the government.



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