US suspends all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey
"Recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of US Mission facilities and personnel. 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 U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey," the Embassy said in a statement issued on its Twitter account.
Statement from the U.S. Mission to Turkey pic.twitter.com/RjTU3BfSXZ— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) 8 Ekim 2017
The move comes at a moment when relations between the two allies are going through severe turbulence, amid the arrest of Istanbul Consulate staff member Metin Topuz late on Oct. 4 over espionage charges and alleged links with some leading members of the Gülen network, accused of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt.
According to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Topuz is accused of talking on the phone with Zekeriya Öz, a fugitive former prosecutor who was dismissed from his post, and four former Gülenist police officers, Yakup Saygılı, Nazmi Ardıç, Mahir Çakallı and Mehmet Akif Üner, before the December 2013 graft probes.
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).
The Embassy had previously slammed the arrest in a statement on Oct. 5, saying that Washington “is deeply disturbed by the arrest.”
“The United States Government is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a locally-employed staff member of the U.S. Consulate General Istanbul on October 4, and by leaks from Turkish government sources aimed at trying the employee in the media rather than a court of law,” read the statement.
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass had also expressed his disturbance at 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 media outlets rather than properly pursuing the case in a court of law before a judge. That does not strike me as pursuing justice, it seems to me more a pursuit of vengeance,” Bass said on Oct 6.
On Oct. 7, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the phone after the arrest of Topuz.
Çavuşoğlu said they discussed developments in Iraq and Syria, as well as “bilateral consulate affairs,” without giving further details.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to all those travelling to the U.S. for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Visa services are only those seeking to live in the US permanently.