US suspends all nonimmigrant visa services in Turkey

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ANKARA

The United States Embassy in Ankara announced on October 8 that it had suspended all nonimmigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

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“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the Turkish government’s commitment to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel. In order to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates during this evaluation continues, effective today, we have suspended all nonimmigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

The move comes at a time when relations between the two allies are going through serious turmoil, amid the arrest of Metin Topuz, a staff member of the Istanbul consulate, late on October 4, on charges of espionage and alleged links to some prominent members of the Gülen network, accused of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt.

According to the Istanbul General Prosecutor’s Office, Topuz is accused of talking on the phone with Zekeriya Öz, a fugitive former prosecutor who was removed from his post, and four former Gülenist police officers, Yakup Saygılı, Nazmi Ardıç, Mahir Çakallı and Mehmet. Akif. Üner, before the transplant probes in December 2013.

Öz was a major figure in the December 2013 corruption cases, which targeted figures close to the government, four ministers and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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The embassy previously criticized the arrest in an Oct. 5 statement, saying Washington “is deeply troubled by the arrest.”

“The United States government is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a local staff member of the United States Consulate General in Istanbul on October 4, and by leaks from Turkish government sources seeking to try the employee in the media rather than in court,” the statement read.

US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass had also expressed concern over the arrest of Topuz, a longtime employee of the consulate.

“I am deeply disturbed that some people in the Turkish government prefer to try this case through the media rather than properly prosecuting the case in court before a judge. This does not seem to me to be a pursuit of justice, it seems more like a pursuit of revenge to me,” Bass said on October 6.

On October 7, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on the phone with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu after Topuz’s arrest.

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Çavuşoğlu said he discussed developments in Iraq and Syria, as well as “bilateral consulate affairs”, without giving further details.

Nonimmigrant visas are issued to anyone traveling to the United States for tourism, medical care, business, temporary work, or study. Visa services are only for those seeking to live in the United States permanently.

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