PM makes connection between US Consulate employee and Halkbank’s Atilla

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim delivers a speech during the AK Party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, Turkey on October 10, 2017. Murat Kaynak / Anadolu Agency

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Tuesday said Turkey does not need to get permission from the US to detain consulate staff members, reminding that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was arrested by American authorities, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

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.

“Turkey is a state of law. Is it a privilege for a suspect or a criminal to work at the US mission? Will we get permission from the [Americans]?”

Recalling the arrest of Halkbank Deputy General Manager Atilla in the US on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran in late March, Yıldırım said: “Did you ask us or get permission from us when you jailed the deputy general manager of our bank who was in the US for an official trip?”

Yıldırım also reiterated the Turkish reaction to the US for not extraditing Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Expressing his displeasure with the US decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey, Yıldırım underlined that Turkey would retaliate for every move of Washington: “Turkey is not a tribal state. We will retaliate in kind for all actions against us.”

The Turkish prime minister called on the US to be prudent: “Why are more than 80 percent of Turks not sympathetic to the US? They have to find the answer to this question.”

“Above all, this decision is saddening. The fact that the ambassador in Ankara took such a decision and implemented it is saddening,” commented Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday on the visa crisis with the US.

The US Embassy in Ankara on Sunday announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey.

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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