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Turkey, US suspend visa services in tit-for-tat fallout

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 08/10/2017
A general view of the US Embassy in Turkey's capital, Ankara [File: Umit Bektas/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera A general view of the US Embassy in Turkey's capital, Ankara [File: Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Turkey on Sunday suspended non-immigrant visa services at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the United States, in a tit-for-tat move amid escalating tensions between the countries.

Just hours after the US mission in Turkey announced it was freezing non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, hit back with an almost identical statement.

"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 Turkish diplomatic facilities in US," read the statement on Twitter, echoing an earlier announcement by the US mission to Turkey.

The Turkish embassy said the measure would apply, with immediate effect, to visas in passports, as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border.

Earlier on Sunday, the US mission in Turkey said that recent events had forced the US government to reassess Ankara's commitment to the security of US facilities and staff.

The Turkish embassy in Washington later offered the same explanation, only replacing the country names.

The escalation in diplomatic tensions comes a few days after the arrest of a US consulate employee in Istanbul for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim leader blamed by Ankara for a failed coup attempt last year. Gulen denies involvement.

Washington said it was "deeply disturbed" by the employee's arrest.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen.

It said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey's government.

Turkey has pressed, so far in vain, for the US to extradite Gulen, while tensions have also risen over Washington's military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria.

The YPG group is considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged an armed campaign for three decades in southeast Turkey.

Meanwhile, members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail were indicted by US authorities after clashes with protesters during an official visit this year, infuriating the Turkey's leader.

More to follow.

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