US mission to Turkey suspends visa services after staffer’s arrest

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26: The American flag flies outside of the United States Mission to the United Nations on January 26, 2017 in New York City. President Donald Trump is preparing executive orders that would reduce US funding of the United Nations and other international organizations. The first order would cut funding for any U.N. agency or other international group that meets any specific criteria. Organizations and groups to receive cuts may include peacekeeping missions, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Population Fund. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

Turkey later says it will cease issuing non-immigrant visas to Americans in apparent tit-for-tat move

The US mission to Turkey said on Sunday it was reducing visa services after one of its employees was detained last week, saying it needed to “reassess” Turkey’s commitment to the security of its personnel. Later, Turkey said it will cease issuing non-immigrant visas to Americans in an apparent tit-for-tat move.

Last week, a US consulate employee in Istanbul was arrested on charges of links to a cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup, a move 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 US mission and personnel,” the statement by the mission in Ankara said.

“In order to minimise 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 US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”

Non-immigrant visas are issued to all those travelling to the United States for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.

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.

US-Turkish tensions have risen 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.

Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen over the July 2016 putsch, in which more than 240 people were killed. Gulen denies any involvement.

Turkey’s visa restrictions apparently go further, applying to “visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border” in addition to those issued at diplomatic facilities in the US, according to a statement from the Turkish embassy in Washington.

“Recent events have forced Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the United States to the security of Turkish Mission facilities and personnel,” a statement posted on the Twitter account of the Turkish embassy in Washington DC said, closely mimicking the earlier US notification.