Turkey’s prime minister called for talks with the United States to end a dispute which closed the two countries from offering each other visa services.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the suspension on Sunday of United States’ visa services “punishes ordinary citizens and must be resolved immediately.”
Turkey reacted by suspending reciprocal visa services with the United States.
The United States ended non-immigrant visa operations at its Turkish diplomatic facilities, citing a reassessment of Turkey’s commitment to security of U.S. personnel in the country. The move came as Turkey, a NATO member, joined Russia and Iran in military involvement in Iraq’s Idlib province.
Turkey also mentioned security concerns as the reason for its own suspension. Yildirim, though, said the real reason involved the arrest on espionage charges of a Turkish employee of a U.S. consulate in Turkey, Metin Topuz.
“We are probing some people working in the American mission for possible links to FETO,” Yildirim said, a reference to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization. The Turkish government adamantly believes the group, allegedly led by U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, has infiltrated Turkish government, military and academia, and is responsible for a 2016 attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan, speaking in Belgrade, said he believes U.S. Ambassador John Bass overstepped his authority in suspending the visa services.He added that the United States should immediately withdraw its ambassador from Turkey.
“I find the lack of consultation by senior U.S. authorities with our foreign minister awkward. If the ambassador acted on his own, then the U.S. administration should not keep him there for a minute,” Erdogan said.
Bass said Monday he was unaware why the employee of the U.S. embassy was detained by Turkish police. It was the second such detention this year.
By Ed Adamczyk