Ankara (GPA) – The US Mission in Turkey has announced they are suspending issuing visas to any Turks not looking to resettle in the US.
This new temporary policy was announced Sunday morning in an effort to “minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates.” The reason for the policy, however, highlights the growing tension between Ankara and Washington that has increased rapidly in recent weeks.
Statement from the U.S. Mission to Turkey pic.twitter.com/RjTU3BfSXZ
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) October 8, 2017
According to the Embassy’s statement, this pause is in order for the US government to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of the US Mission facilities and personnel. This latest downgrade in US-Turkish relations comes after the recent arrest of a Turkish national who is a US Consulate employee.
This event is just the latest in a chain that began with the rise of Turkish President Recep Erdogan that has seen relations between the US and their NATO ally hit an all-time low. While Erdogan may have initially been seen by the US as a potentially cooperative partner, it has become clear (especially since last year’s coup) that this is not the case.
Last week also saw an incident where Erdogan – speaking to a room full of Turkish police – offered to trade an illegally detained US pastor for the self-exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen. Gulen lives in Pennsylvania and is an ex-ally of Erdogan who the President now claims masterminded the failed coup.
Gulen has been a point of contention between the US and Turkey for some time, but the pressure for his return from Ankara has increased one-hundred fold since 2016. On the other side of things, the case of US pastor Andrew Brunson, has also gotten more attention in the US, especially with certain sects of US voters that make up the electoral base of President Donald Trump’s Republican Party. Brunson’s detention has even gotten personal attention from US Vice-President Mike Pence, who has spoken to the pastor’s family and asked for his return.
The Turkish government doesn’t seem to be letting any of this get to them, and decided to issue a statement of their own on issuing visas to US citizens. The Turk’s statement was basically a word for word copy of the US embassy’s, with the two countries swapped in each sentence (and one extra line about the Turkish e-Visa program). So, basically, Turkey’s diplomatic mission to the US will not be issuing any non-immigration visas to Turkey.
This means, that, as of now there will be no citizens of Turkey or the US going back and forth between the two countries. Citizens of either country will only be given a visa if their intention is to relocate permanently. These moves are also likely to further damage relations and hit the wallets of both NATO allies as it will restrict all kind of travel in sectors such as business, education, diplomatic services and official state envoys.
The US Consulate employee was arrested on similar charges to the pastor, and to several other US citizens, and many other dual citizens of both nations. If these arrests and threats continue from this rogue NATO ally will make things worse, and if that happens it would probably behoove Mr. Erdogan to watch his back in case of another coup or some other style of US-backed subversion.