US Suspends Visa Services in Turkey to 'Reassess Commitment to Security of US Mission'

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Sputnik

The United States mission in Ankara said it has suspended visa services in Turkey several days after a US consulate employee was arrested in Istanbul over alleged links to Islamic cleric Gulen, accused by Ankara of being behind the failed coup attempt in 2016.

"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 US mission in Ankara said. The mission added that due to the assessment, it has suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

The decision comes after a US consulate employee in Istanbul was detained on suspicion of having links to the movement of US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, referred to as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which Ankara believes is behind the 2016 failed military coup attempt. Washington criticized the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen locally employed at the US consulate, saying it was "deeply" disturbed over the "baseless, anonymous allegations" undermining "this longstanding partnership" between NATO allies.

Ankara responded by saying that the employee of the US Consulate General in Istanbul arrested by Turkish authorities had no diplomatic immunity.

"We have seen today a statement of the US embassy regarding the detained employee of the mission M.T. In it, the person is called a "locally-employed staff member" of the US Consulate General in Istanbul. The person detained and later arrested over accusation of being connected to terrorism activities is not listed in the official list of the employees of the US Consulate General and has no diplomatic immunity," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said on Thursday in a statement obtained by Sputnik.

Ankara accuses Gulen, who has been living in the United States since 1999, of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt. Since then, hundreds of military personnel, activists and journalists were arrested in Turkey over suspected links to FETO and Gulen. The cleric has repeatedly refuted all allegations.