Turkey’s Erdoğan cancels press conference amid crisis with US

Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday cancelled a planned press conference at İstanbul Atatürk Airport as a visa crisis that erupted following the arrest of a US Consulate General staff member on Oct. 4 deepens, Cumhuriyet reported.

Erdoğan left the airport for Ukraine at 11:55 after a last-minute decision to cancel the press conference. However, he has stated in Kyiv that the latest US decision to suspend visa services at diplomatic facilities in Turkey was saddening.

“Above all, this decision is saddening. The fact that the ambassador in Ankara took such decision and implemented it is saddening,” Erdoğan told a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv. Erdoğan added that Turkish foreign ministry officials called their correspondents over the issue and he suggested the necessary response to be given “based on the rules of reciprocity.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül declined a meeting with John Bass, the departing US ambassador to Turkey, while the Foreign Ministry summoned the US Embassy’s deputy chief of mission to seek a reversal of a decision to suspend visa procedures for Turkish citizens.

According to a report in the Birgün daily, Ambassador Bass requested a meeting over a crisis that erupted due to the arrest of İstanbul Consulate General staff member Metin Topuz on Oct. 4 on espionage charges and alleged links to some leading members of the faith-based Gülen movement. Gül, however, refused the meeting.

Local media on Monday revealed that Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant for another US Consulate staff member over Gülen movement links on Sunday morning. Police were unable to detain him because he has remained in the consulate building.

In a similar development, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Philip Kosnett was summoned on Monday to the Foreign Ministry to receive a Turkish message demanding reversal of the decision to suspend visa issuance for Turks and to ease the tension between the two countries. Ambassador Bass was also reached by telephone by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın over the recent crisis.

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

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.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington retaliated by copying and reversing the US statement.

“This measure will apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border,” the Turkish Embassy added in its statement. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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