ANKARA (Reuters) – The U.S. mission in Turkey and subsequently Turkish mission in Washington mutually reduced visa services after a U.S. mission employee was detained in Turkey last week, saying they needed to reassess each other’s commitment to the security of their personnel.
Last week, a U.S. 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 U.S. mission and personnel,” the statement by the mission in Ankara said.
“In order to minimize 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 U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”
The Turkish embassy in Washington followed the U.S. example, and made virtually the same statement, only replacing the country names.
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.
U.S.-Turkish tensions have risen over U.S. 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.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Evans and Lisa Shumaker