Turkish president says ‘nothing to discuss’ with US if administration was involved in visa decision
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday laid the blame for the current visa row with the U.S. at Washington’s door.
“The offender in this problem is the United States of America itself,” Erdogan told a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia.
The U.S. Embassy on Sunday announced the suspension of non-immigration visas for Turkish nationals following the arrest of a Turkish employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.
In a retaliatory move, Turkey’s Washington Embassy also suspended non-immigrant visa services, saying, “Recent events have forced Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the United States to the security of Turkish Mission facilities and personnel.”
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Bass announced the visa suspension and issued a video on Monday discussing his decision, but there has yet to be any official comment from Washington.
“I personally find it odd that high-level U.S. officials did not conduct any means of communication with our foreign minister. It is concerning for an Ankara ambassador to take such a decision then claim he took it ‘in the name of my country’.”
Erdogan warned that Turkish-U.S. ties could be further damaged if U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration played a role in the visa decision.
If the decision was made after discussion with senior officials, “then we have nothing to discuss with the administration.
“But if that ambassador made the decision on his own, then that ambassador must not be allowed to remain here, not for even a minute. They [the US administration] must ask, ‘Why are you harming Turkish-U.S. relations?'”
– ‘How did spies infiltrate the consulate?’
Mentioning how the visa row followed Turkish authorities revealing the links a U.S. Istanbul Consulate local employee had with FETO, the group behind last year’s defeated coup attempt in Turkey, Erdogan stated that the presence of an additional FETO suspect working for the consulate “shows something’s happening there.”
“How did these spies infiltrate the U.S. Consulate? If they didn’t infiltrate it, then who placed them there? We must ask such things.
“No state would allow such spies that could cause a domestic threat. Turkey is not a tribal state,” Erdogan said.
Metin Topuz, a longstanding U.S. consulate employee and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent at the Istanbul Bureau, was arrested last week over alleged ties to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind last year’s attempted deadly coup in Turkey.
Topuz has been linked to a number of FETO suspects, including police commissioners and former prosecutor Zekeriya Oz, a fugitive accused of attempting to overthrow the government through the use of force, according to a judicial source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
On Wednesday, Bass is due to leave Ankara for a posting in Afghanistan, and Erdogan announced a boycott of any farewell events by Turkish officials.
“Myself, as well as our ministers and the parliament speaker have not and will not accept his farewell visits,” he said. “I should say this clearly: We do not see him as the representative of the United States of America in Turkey.”