Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan / AA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Amid ongoing conflicts between Washington and Ankara regarding visa restrictions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the United States to “return to reason”, blaming US Ambassador to Ankara John Bass for prompting the current visa crisis between the two NATO allies.
“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it,” said Erdoğan addressing a meeting of provincial governors in the capital Ankara on Friday as reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News. “If you don’t, then sorry but we do not need you.”
The spat began last week when Turkey arrested Metin Topuz, a US Consulate official in Istanbul on allegations of terrorism and ties to the groups accused of orchestrating last years failed coup, the Gulen Movement, led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has denied such charges.
The US responded on Sunday, announcing the suspension of non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, citing concerns about the security of the staff at its missions.
Within minutes, Turkey’s embassy in Washington issued a similar suspension of visa services in the US.
“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable that the U.S. has sacrificed a strategic partner like Turkey to a presumptuous ambassador,” Erdoğan said.
Ambassador Bass issued a statement Monday evening, explaining the move. He said they were concerned that the purpose of arresting their employee was to “disrupt the long-standing cooperation between Turkey and the United States,” thereby putting their staff and facilities at risk.
The job of the employee arrested was “strengthening law enforcement cooperation” between their two countries, Bass explained.
His statements also confirmed that the decision for the visa suspension was made in coordination with the National Security Council, the State Department and the White House.
Erdoğan warned that Ankara would stand behind its decision to mutually suspend visa services, “if the US Secretary of State and the President defend the ambassador’s step.”
Regarding the detention of the US consular officer, Topuz, he said, “is ongoing within the constitutional framework.”
“The legal process on the individual working at the U.S. Istanbul mission as a local personnel, who is the citizen of our country and does not hold any diplomatic immunity, is ongoing within legal practices, agreements and the Vienna Convention,” he said.
Also on Monday, Turkish authorities issued a summons for another employee of the US Istanbul consulate while officials called on the US to end the suspension.
“The decision taken by the U.S. Consulate and the statements made after it are not related to the truth or reality,” Erdoğan added. “A junta within the American bureaucracy that is related to the previous administration aims to sabotage relations between the new administration and Turkey.”
Bass, who has been the US Ambassador to Turkey since 2014, is due to leave the country within a matter of days having been recently named ambassador to Afghanistan, but the Turkish president has officially sidelined him anyway.
“We do not see him as the representative of the United States in Turkey,” Erdoğan said.