US restrictions appear to be linked to arrest of consulate employee in Istanbul over alleged links to Gülen movement
The US and Turkey have imposed travel restrictions on each other’s citizens in an escalating diplomatic spat that highlights worsening relations between Ankara and its western allies.
Washington said late on Sunday it was suspending the processing of all non-immigrant visas in Turkey due to “recent events” that “have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel”.
Ankara responded in the early hours of Monday with an identical statement, imposing tit-for-tat measures and suspending the processing of visas in its embassy and consulate in the US. It also shut down its online visa system for US citizens.
The Turkish move effectively closed its borders to American visitors residing in the US or elsewhere, unless they can obtain visas from diplomatic missions outside their home country.
A rift between Turkey and the west has broadened in the aftermath of last year’s coup attempt, divergence over the war in Syria, and a crackdown against alleged putsch collaborators.
The US government’s restrictions appeared to be linked to the arrest last week of a local consulate employee in Istanbul over alleged links to the movement of Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, an exiled preacher based in Pennsylvania, is widely believed in Turkey to have orchestrated last year’s coup attempt. Ankara has long demanded the cleric’s extradition.
The US embassy said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest, and said the allegations were “wholly without merit”.
Later on Monday, in another escalation, the Turkish foreign ministry said it had summoned the American charges d’affaires, and the Istanbul prosecutor’s office said it had ordered the questioning of another US consulate official as a suspect in an unidentified case.