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Visa dispute with US must be fixed quickly, says Turkish PM

photo by AP photo

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to media in Kirsehir, Turkey.

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11th-Oct-2017       
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Reuters, Ankara :
The United States has punished Turkish and U.S. citizens alike by suspending visa services, Turkey's prime minister said on Tuesday, accusing Washington of taking an emotional and inappropriate decision against an ally.
Binali Yildirim said the dispute should be resolved as soon as possible, but defended Turkey's arrest of a U.S. consulate employee last week which prompted the U.S. move, and its reciprocal visa suspension within hours of the U.S. move.
"Turkey is not a tribal state, we will retaliate against what has been done in kind," Yildirim told ruling AK Party parliamentarians. "We call on the United States to be more reasonable. The issue must of course be resolved as soon as possible," he said, describing U.S. behavior as "unbecoming" of an ally.
"Who are you punishing? You are making your citizens and ours pay the price, this is not being serious. You can't run a country with emotional decisions," Yildirim said.
The arrest of the consulate employee comes after months of tensions, and Yildirim spelt out Turkish grievances including U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, a U.S. court case against a senior Turkish banker and former minister, and Ankara's request for the extradition of a U.S.-based cleric.
Meanwhile, Turkey's justice minister on Monday said he hoped the United States would review its decision to suspend most visa services for Turkish citizens following the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul that has deepened tensions between the two NATO allies.
Meanwhile, Turkish authorities announced that a second employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul had been "invited" to the Istanbul chief prosecutor's office to testify. Authorities did not explain why. Reports say the employee is a Turkish citizen, and the prosecutor's office said his wife and child had also been detained for questioning. The U.S. on Sunday suspended the issuing of visas for Turkish citizens hoping to visit or study in the United States after Turkey arrested U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz last week on allegations of espionage.
Turkey immediately halted visa services in the U.S. in a tit-for-tat response.
John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, said in a video message Monday that Topuz was the second Turkish staff member to be arrested this year, adding that U.S. officials were "unable to determine why it occurred, or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee." He said Topuz had not been allowed "sufficient" access to his attorney.
Bass added that the arrest has "raised questions whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation between Turkey and the U.S."
Speaking during a visit to Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the U.S. decision a "saddening" development. He said that he had immediately ordered a retaliatory measure that resulted in the Turkish Embassy in Washington issuing an almost identical text to the U.S. announcement.
"Turkey is governed by the rule of law. Above all, we are not a tribe, we are not a tribal state," Erdogan said.
Earlier, Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the embassy's second-in-charge, asking that Washington review the decision that caused "unnecessary escalation" and "victimized" both Turkish and U.S. citizens, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.
"It is Turkey's right to try a Turkish citizen for acts carried out in Turkey," said Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. "Everyone should follow (legal procedures) with respect."
Despite the seemingly friendly relations between U.S. President Donald Trump and Erdogan, ties between the two countries are tense over the arrest of Topuz, a Turkish citizen, and several Americans over alleged ties to a movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for last summer's coup attempt. Gulen denies involvement.
Topuz is accused of espionage and "attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and constitution." Turkey's official Anadolu news agency reported that he allegedly communicated with former police chiefs in a 2013 corruption probe and others involved in the attempted coup using an encrypted mobile messaging application.
Bass said Topuz worked in an office "devoted to strengthening law enforcement cooperation" between Turkey and the U.S.
"Speaking to and traveling with Turkish police was part of his regular duties," the ambassador said. "The Turkish government has not shared any information to indicate the employee was involved in any illegal activity.

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