Turkey detains daughter of US consulate employee amid Turkish-American tension

The daughter of a US Consulate staff member for whom Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant on Sunday over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement was detained on Tuesday, following the Monday detention of the suspect’s wife and son, Milliyet reported.

Wife S.C. and son K.İ.C. of N.M.C., who were detained in the Merzifon district of Amasya  province on Monday, were taken to İstanbul for interrogation while N.M.C. has remained in the consulate building in İstanbul.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for N.M.C., who works in a consulate department handling issues with Turkish law enforcement. The police were unable to detain him because he has remained in the consulate building. According to the report, his wife opened a bank account at Bank Asya, which was seized in 2015 by the Turkish government over links to the Gülen movement after Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly targeted it.

ERDOĞAN ON VISA CRISIS: US WAS THE INSTIGATOR

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has claimed on Tuesday that Turkey did not start the visa crisis and that the US was the instigator, adding that Ankara does not see US Ambassador John Bass as a representative of Washington, the t24 news website reported.

“It is thought-provoking that an ambassador [John Bass] in Ankara took a decision [suspending visa services in Turkey] and says ‘I took it in the name of my state.’ If this is the case, there is nothing for us to talk about with the US administration,” Erdoğan said during a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

Calling on the US to recall Ambassador Bass from Ankara, Erdoğan said: “How did those agents [two Turkish employees at the US consulate, one under arrest and the other sought by police over alleged ties to the Gülen movement] infiltrate the US Consulate? Who employed them if they did not infiltrate it? We have to focus on this. No state can allow these kinds of agents. Turkey is not a tribal state.”

Erdoğan said he would not agree to a request for a meeting with departing US Ambassador Bass: “We do not see him as a representative of the US.”

“Above all, this decision is saddening. The fact that the ambassador in Ankara took such a decision and implemented it is saddening,” commented Erdoğan on Monday on the visa crisis with the US.

PM MAKES CONNECTION BETWEEN US CONSULATE EMPLOYEE AND HALKBANK’S ATİLLA

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has also said on Tuesday that Turkey does not need to get permission from the US to detain consulate staff members, reminding that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was arrested by American authorities. “Turkey is a state of law. Is it a privilege for a suspect or a criminal to work at the US mission? Will we get permission from the [Americans]?” said he.

Recalling the arrest of Halkbank Deputy General Manager Hakan in the US on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran in late March, Yıldırım said: “Did you ask us or get permission from us when you jailed the deputy general manager of our bank who was in the US for an official trip?”

Yıldırım also reiterated the Turkish reaction to the US for not extraditing Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Expressing his displeasure with the US decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, Yıldırım underlined that Turkey would retaliate for every move of Washington: “Turkey is not a tribal state. We will retaliate in kind for all actions against us.”

The Turkish prime minister called on the US to be prudent: “Why are more than 80 percent of Turks not sympathetic to the US? They have to find the answer to this question.”

PRO-ERDOĞAN DAILY ON US: NOT AN ALLY BUT AN ENEMY

The Yeni Şafak daily, a staunch supporter of President Erdoğan, on its front page called the US an “enemy,” claiming that Turkey might retaliate by closing İncirlik Airbase and withdrawing from the mission in Afghanistan.

“Not an ally but an enemy” was the newspaper’s lead headline, linking a US decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey with Turkish operations in Syria and increasing cooperation with Russia and Iran. The daily has also called John Bass, the departing US ambassador to Turkey, “the figurant of a dirty game.”

Taking the accusations one step further in his column, İbrahim Karagül, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Şafak, said US Ambassador Bass was responsible for all the murders in Turkey including those who were killed during a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

“He [Bass] is responsible for the assassination attempt against Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and putting a plan in motion for it. He is responsible for rescuing pro-FETÖ [a derogatory term created by the government to refer to the Gülen movement] CIA agents. He is responsible for bombing the Turkish Parliament,” said Karagül.

“The US is no longer an ally and never will be. Military bases like İncirlik have become a threat to Turkish national security. It must be put on the table and evaluated as part of the fight against terrorism,” added Yeni Şafak’s editor-in-chief. Karagül has also claimed that “this is the continuation of a thousand-year-old fight: We will win.”

MAIN OPPOSITION CHP ACCUSES TURKISH GOV’T OF PURSUING ‘HOSTAGE POLICY’

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has accused the Turkish government of pursuing “hostage policy” against the US in retaliation to an ongoing probe into Iranian-born Turkish businessman Reza Zerrab in the U.S.

“There is a case in the US on Zarrab; the deputy manager of Halkbank is in prison and [Former Economy Minister] Zafer Çağlayan is also [in the case file]. Now, they are trying to solve the problem with a hostage policy. The hostage policy would only deepen the problem rather than solve it,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, addressing his party group in parliament on Tuesday.

Kılıçdaroğlu referred to a case in which US prosecutors broadened an investigation into Zarrab, filing a new indictment charging Çağlayan and former Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan with “conspiring to use the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities, which were barred by United States sanctions.”

The CHP leader claimed the recent diplomatic spat between the two countries stemmed from the broadening of the case, criticizing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) foreign policy of “lacking reason, calm and dialogue.” He called on the government to adopt a “backtrack diplomacy” and use a “more careful language.” Kılıçdaroğlu also urged both countries to “act in common sense.”

“The measure the US has adopted is wrong. We do not support it. There are thousands of students aiming to go to the US, there are patients going for medical treatment and businesspeople going to pursue their interests. All of them have been blocked. Those punished are not the government, it is the 80 million people,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to the population of Turkey.

“I want to express our wish for common sense to prevail and the adaptation of rational policies,” he added. “There should not be such implementations that could cause heavy sanctions to this extent. I hope the crisis will be solved as soon as possible,” he said.

BUSINESS WORLD WANT NORMALIZATION IN US-TURKEY TIES

Meanwhile, Turkey’s leading business groups have voiced their hope for an immediate lowering in recent tension between Ankara and Washington, stressing the need for diplomacy to ease the crisis. Turkish Union of the Chamber and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) head Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said Turkey and the US had deep-rooted bilateral ties as two key NATO members. “The strength of bilateral relations has fueled our hopes about an easing of the problem through dialogue. We believe the issue will be resolved in a short time through diplomatic means,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said on Monday.

The International Investors Association (YASED) also voiced its members’ expectation for a resolution in the political tension through diplomatic channels. “We want to see an immediate normalization in bilateral ties,” said YASED President Ahmet Erdem.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Friday, Bass said some in the Turkish government are motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

The US on Sunday suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a US Consulate General staff member on Oct. 4 in İstanbul.

The US Embassy in Ankara on Sunday announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

Hours after the release of the statement, the Turkish Embassy in Washington announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all Turkish diplomatic missions in the US. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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