Turkey, US suspend visa services in tit-for-tat fallout

Turkey, US suspend visa services in tit-for-tat fallout

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Turkish and US missions mutually restrict services, say they need to reassess each other’s commitment to staff security.

Turkey on Sunday suspended non-immigrant visa services at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the United States, in a tit-for-tat move amid escalating tensions between the NATO allies.

Just hours after the US mission to Turkey announced it was restricting visa services, saying that recent events had forced it to “reassess” Ankara’s comment to the security of US facilities and staff, the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, hit back with an almost identical statement.

“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 Turkish diplomatic facilities in US,” read its statement on Twitter, echoing the earlier US announcement.

A first version of the Turkish statement had said the measure would apply “to visas in passports”.

But a later version said the measure “will apply to sticker visas as well as e-Visas and border visas”, leaving open the question of whether US travellers who already have visas would be allowed to enter Turkey.

The earlier US statement, meanwhile, said it was suspending the processing of “non-immigrant” visas, a specific category that relates to tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.

Immigrant visa services are for those seeking to live in the US permanently.

The escalation in diplomatic tensions comes a few days after the arrest of a US consulate employee in Istanbul for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim leader blamed by Ankara for a failed coup attempt last year. Gulen denies involvement.

Washington said it was “deeply disturbed” by the employee’s arrest.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as Metin Topuz, a male Turkish citizen.

It said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey’s government.

Source: Al.Jazeera/english