Turkey presses US to reverse visa suspensions

World Today

Turkey’s state news agency is reporting that authorities there are looking to question a second Turkish national who works at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul – on suspected ties to last year’s military coup. This, after the arrest of another U.S. consulate worker last week set off a diplomatic row between the two countries.

CGTN’s Michael Bardavid reports.

This latest crisis escalated on Sunday when the U.S. embassy in Ankara announced it was suspending non-immigrant visa services. The embassy statement said it needed to reassess “the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel”.  Hours later, Turkey followed suit and issued a near identical statement – suspending ITS processing of visas.

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, traveling in Ukraine on Monday, addressed the issue at a news conference and explained why he ordered his staff to reciprocate.

 “Before anything else, this decision is very saddening. The implementation of a decision by the U.S. ambassador in Ankara is very saddening. Turkey is a state of law, not a tribal state.”

The move by Washington came days after Turkey arrested an employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul on charges of links to the Fethullah Gulen organization which Ankara believes is behind the failed coup attempt of last year.

The U.S. has said the arrest charge was baseless. Meanwhile some experts here in Turkey say, in this current dispute, the U.S. has gone too far.

 “In terms of bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S., we have now hit rock bottom. This decision by the U.S. affects Turkish citizens directly and aims for them to question the Turkish government’s actions. For the first time the U.S. has made a move that will cause difficulties for the Turkish society,” International Relations Expert Oguz Demir said.

But Turkish-U.S. relations have been unsteady for quite some time now. Ankara was furious last month when U.S. federal prosecutors indicted a former Turkish minister of economy for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.

There are major issues of security as well; Turkey has been harshly critical of the U.S. for arming the Syrian Kurdish group YPG in their fight against ISIL, as Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization. Furthermore, Ankara has been calling for the extradition of Gulen, the Muslim cleric in self-exile in the U.S.

Though the Turkish Foreign Ministry has summoned the U.S. embassy undersecretary to resolve this latest visa crisis, it’s not looking likely that relations will return to normal any time soon.