Erdoğan regime’s hostage taking policy continues to poison Turkey-US relations

Turkey’s Justice Ministry said on Tuesday it had canceled a planned study visit to the United States due to the widening diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington over the issuing of visas following the hostage taking policy applied by the autocratic regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish media earlier reported that US authorities had rejected visa requests from members of the delegation, but the Turkish Justice Ministry said in written statement that it had taken the initiative and canceled the trip. “Due to the recent visa crisis between the two countries, the visit was canceled by our Ministry,” it said in a statement, adding that there were no visa applications to be rejected.

The delegation had planned a study visit to the United States, at the invitation of US authorities, between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4, the ministry said.

Upon reports saying the Justice Ministry was denied US visas, the value of the dollar rose rapidly against the Turkish Lira, hitting 3,76 at one stage, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday. The euro, with the parity impact, performed meanwhile at a range of 4,40-4,41 liras at the start of the fiscal day.

Customs and Trade Minister Bülent Tüfenkci said on Tuesday that he hoped the visa row between Turkey and the US would be resolved as soon as possible as it is hindering trade. “I hope the visa suspension will be removed shortly and negotiations will be concluded positively, contributing to increasing trade volume between the two countries,” Tüfenkci said at a meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce committee in Ankara.

Washington this month stopped issuing visas at its missions in Turkey, citing safety concerns for its staff following the arrest of two US consular staff, both Turkish nationals. The crisis has weighed on the lira currency and alarmed some investors. On Tuesday, a group of leading Turkish and US businesses urged both governments to resolve the dispute.

Representatives from major international companies such as Amazon, Cargill, Motorola Solutions, and Dow were at the meeting, and Tüfenkci noted that the trade volume between the two countries reached $17,5 billion in 2016 compared with $6,4 billion in 2002.

In May, a translator at the US consulate in the southern province of Adana was arrested and, more recently, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worker was detained in İstanbul. Both are accused of links to last year’ failed coup. The US embassy has said the accusations are baseless.

Turkish police want to question a third worker based in İstanbul. His wife and daughter were detained over alleged links to the Gülen movement. They were later released.

Turkish and US diplomats had talks in Ankara on October 18 to resolve the crisis and the U.S. State Department said they had a “productive” meeting late on the same day. Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül confirmed shortly after this that the two sides had a “very productive” meeting.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempton July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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