On Friday, we reported that in a move that looks suspiciously like retaliation, Turkish police on Wednesday arrested a local employee of the US embassy in Istanbul and charged him with espionage and trying to overthrow the government. The arrest stemmed from the man’s alleged support for Erdogan's scapegoat for "fill-in-the-blank", US-based Cleric Fettulah Gulen, who was blamed for 2016's fake coup attempt and pretty much everything else that's wrong in Turkey.
Predictably, the US government slammed the crackdown, with embassy officials telling the WSJ that “these allegations are wholly without merit" adding that “baseless, anonymous allegations against our employees undermine and devalue this longstanding partnership."
And, in a move that suspiciously looks like retaliation to Turkey's earlier retaliation, on Sunday afternoon the U.S. Embassy in Turkey said in statement on its official twitter account that "recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel" and as a result "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. "
Statement from the U.S. Mission to Turkey pic.twitter.com/RjTU3BfSXZ— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) October 8, 2017
Until this latest, and most severe deterioration in relations, the American embassy had repeatedly railed against unsubstantiated claims made against Washington in the pro-Erdogan press, including of a US hand in the failed coup which the United States has always denied.
Just like in the Kremlin, Turkish officials had expressed hope of a new page in Ankara-Washington relations under US President Donald Trump. But ties strained after members of Erdogan’s security detail were indicted by US authorities after beating up protesters during an official visit by Erdogan earlier this year. Meanwhile American pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in the western city of Izmir, has been held by Turkish authorities since October 2016 on charges of being a member of Gulen’s group. Erdogan suggested last month that Turkey could release him in exchange for Gulen but Washington showed little interest in the proposal.
The US embassy said that the United States will “continue to engage” with Ankara to ensure its employees and US citizens are accorded “due legal process.”