US, Turkey mutually scaling back visa services

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WASHINGTON DC: The United States indefinitely suspended handling all regular visa applications in Turkey; dramatically escalating a row after one of the mission’s Turkish staffers was arrested.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said on Monday he hoped the United States would review its decision to suspend most visa services to Turkish citizens.

Turkey has cancelled visa applications for US citizens in a tit-for-tat action against Washington that sent the Turkish lira tumbling against the dollar and exposed deep rifts between the two NATO allies.

Apparently it was the arrest last week of a Turkish employee at the US embassy and reports in the pro-government Turkish media accusing him of ties to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist preacher that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for masterminding last year’s failed coup attempt. He was the second Turkish embassy employee to be detained this year.

The United States has condemned the charges against its Turkish employee as baseless it was halting all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey while it reassessed Turkey’s commitment to the security of its missions and staff.

Since the failed putsch in July 2016, authorities have arrested tens of thousands of Turks it accuses of having links to the Gulenist movement in a sweeping crackdown. But the dragnet has included at least a dozen US citizens, some with dual Turkish-US nationalities.

US diplomats believe the American citizens are being held for political reasons and are unlikely to receive a fair trial, according to officials in Turkey and in Washington.

One of those arrested was Andrew Brunson, an American pastor. His case has come to the attention of US vice-president Mike Pence and cast a shadow over US-Turkish relations that span counterterrorism, shared NATO responsibilities and the fight against Isis.

Within hours Turkey announced it was taking the same measures against U.S. citizens. The moves sent Turkish markets tumbling, with the lira falling 2.4 percent and the main share index falling as much as 4.7 percent.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told A Haber television that if this is an issue relating to security, then the necessary steps will be taken, but if it’s an issue regarding the arrest of the consulate employee, then this is a decision the Turkish judiciary has given.

Trying a Turkish citizen for a crime committed in Turkey is our right. I hope the U.S. will revise its decision in this light.

Source: Reuters

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