Erdoğan questions ‘sincerity’ of US partnership amid visa row
The row was sparked on Oct. 8, when the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of non-immigrant visa services for Turkish nationals, following the arrest of a local employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Ankara.
U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz was arrested over alleged ties to the Gülen network, widely believed to have been behind last year’s failed coup attempt.
Despite statements from the State Department that the decision was taken in coordination with Washington, Erdoğan claimed once again that outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Bass was to blame for the visa row.
“Who said this? The ambassador in Ankara. Who is this ambassador?” he said at the closing session of the TRT World Forum in Istanbul.
“If he [the ambassador] can just say ‘we have suspended visas’ in one paragraph on behalf of the great U.S., then I will have to reconsider the strategic partnership,” Erdoğan said.
He also noted that U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen “controls its network in 170 countries from 400,000 square meters of land in Pennsylvania.”
“Of course, this man is just symbolic. The main administrators [of the network] are other people ... He has neither the talent to administer such a network nor the power,” he said.
On the question of the arrest of Topuz, Erdoğan said Turkey “will do whatever is necessary as a democratic state under the rule of law.”