The blame for Turkey’s ongoing visa spat with Washington lies with the United States, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, singling out U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass as responsible for the situation.
“The offender in this problem is the U.S. itself,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 10 at a press conference during his official visit to Serbia.
“I personally find it odd that high-level U.S. officials did not conduct any means of communication with our foreign minister on the issue,” he said.
He noted that Turkey has “nothing to discuss with the U.S. administration if its envoy in Ankara has taken the decision for the visa suspension” in diplomatic facilities in Turkey.
If Bass acted on his own in suspending visa services in Turkey, Washington should recall him from the country, Erdoğan said, adding that Ankara “does not consider Bass to be Washington’s legitimate representative in Turkey.”
“The ambassador is currently paying farewell visits but neither our ministers, nor the parliament speaker, nor myself have accepted these farewell visits because we do not see him as the representative of the U.S. in Turkey,” he said.
The Turkish president also questioned how “spies had infiltrated” into the U.S. Consulate, referring to the arrest of a staff member that triggered the crisis between the two NATO allies.
“How did those spies infiltrate into the U.S. Consulate? If they did not infiltrate, who put them there? No state would allow such spies that could threaten it from the inside,” Erdoğan said.
Ambassador Bass had released a statement on Oct. 9 over the U.S. decision to halt visa services in the country, stating that the U.S. has been unable to determine why its staff member had been arrested or what evidence exists against him.
“Last week, for the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities. Despite our best efforts to learn the reasons for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee,” Bass said in a statement issued on the Embassy’s Twitter account.
He said the duration of a suspension in visa services would depend on talks between the two governments regarding the detention of Turkish staff at the U.S. embassy.
Bass added that the length of the suspension would also depend on “the Turkish government’s commitment to protecting our facilities and personnel here in Turkey,” stressing that it is not a visa ban on Turkish citizens.
“Now this suspension of services is not a visa ban on Turkish citizens. It’s a suspension of our consideration of new visa applications. If you have a valid visa, you can still travel to the United States. If you want to apply for a visa at another U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Turkey, you are free to do so,” the statement read.
“This was not a decision we took lightly and it’s a decision we took with great sadness. We realize that the suspension of visa services will inconvenience people. We hope it will not last long, but at this time we can’t predict how long it will take to resolve this matter. The duration will be a function of ongoing discussions between our two governments about the reasons for the detention of our local staff members and the Turkish Government’s commitment to protecting our facilities and personnel here in Turkey,” it added.