US partially suspends visa services in Turkey following diplomatic row

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The US has announced it is reducing visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey for security reasons after one of its employees was detained at the Turkish consulate.

The move means that Turks will not be given visas to visit the US unless they are planning to move there.

The US Embassy in Ankara tweeted a statement from the US Mission to Turkey saying that recent events have forced it to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of US Mission facilities and personnel.”

Turkish authorities last week arrested a US Consulate employee of Turkish nationality, Metin Topuz, for alleged links to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The Turkish government has pushed for the US to extradite Mr Gulen, saying he was responsible for last summer’s failed coup, although he denied any involvement.

Mr Topuz is accused of espionage and “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and constitution.” 

His arrest was condemned by Washington as baseless and damaging to relations between the NATO allies, with the US embassy saying it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that he allegedly communicated with former police chiefs in a 2013 corruption probe, 121 people involved in the attempted coup and hundreds of people using an encrypted mobile messaging application. 

The statement said the suspension of non-immigrant visa services was “effective immediately” to minimise visitor numbers to the US Embassy and Consulate for now. 

The move will affect business, tourist, medical treatment, student, exchange visitor, crew member, media and journalist, treaty trader, diplomatic and official visas.

There was no immediate response from Ankara but the Turkish Foreign Ministry is understood to be drafting a statement.

US pastor Andrew Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has been imprisoned for a year for alleged links to Mr Gulen. 

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US was putting pressure on Ankara to return a “cleric” – Mr Brunsen – while refusing to hand over another “cleric” – Mr Gulen.

Tensions between the two nations have also increased over US 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.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 have been fired from government jobs as part of a state of emergency declared after the failed coup.

Additional reporting by agencies




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