Erdoğan on visa crisis: US was the instigator

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic after their meeting in Belgrade on October 10, 2017 / AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said Turkey did not start the visa crisis and that the US was the instigator, adding that Ankara does not see US Ambassador John Bass as a representative of Washington, the t24 news website reported.

“It is thought-provoking that an ambassador [John Bass] in Ankara took a decision [suspending visa services in Turkey] and says ‘I took it in the name of my state.’ If this is the case, there is nothing for us to talk about with the US administration,” Erdoğan said during a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

Calling on the US to recall Ambassador Bass from Ankara, Erdoğan said: “How did those agents [two Turkish employees at the US consulate, one under arrest and the other sought by police over alleged ties to the Gülen movement] infiltrate the US Consulate? Who employed them if they did not infiltrate it? We have to focus on this. No state can allow these kinds of agents. Turkey is not a tribal state.”

Erdoğan said he would not agree to a request for a meeting with departing US Ambassador Bass: “We do not see him as a representative of the US.”

The US on Sunday suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a US Consulate General staff member, on Oct. 4 in İstanbul.

Hours after the release of the statement, the Turkish Embassy in Washington retaliated by copying and reversing the US statement.

Local media on Monday revealed that Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant for another US Consulate staff member over alleged Gülen movement links on Sunday morning. Police were unable to detain him because he has remained in the consulate building.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Friday, John Bass, the departing US ambassador to Turkey, said some in the Turkish government are motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

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