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[UPDATE] State Dept says US citizen arrested in Turkey for selling passport is not a diplomat

Passengers wearing protective face masks wait for flights at the İstanbul Airport. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

Turkish police on Wednesday said it had arrested a US diplomat in Turkey last month for selling his passport to a Syrian trying to travel to Germany, but the US State Department later the same day denied that the person in custody was a diplomat, Reuters reported.

Istanbul police identified the person as “D.J.K.,” working at the US Consulate in Beirut, despite the fact that the United States’ only diplomatic mission in Lebanon is the embassy in Beirut.

“We are aware of the detention of a US citizen in Turkey. The individual is not a US diplomat. We are providing appropriate consular services,” a State Department official said but offered no further details.

The police said they had video evidence of the individual exchanging clothes with the Syrian at Istanbul airport before handing over the passport, which had been identified as suspicious at passport control.

The person was found to be carrying $10,000 in an envelope, was arrested and remains in detention, the police statement said.

Ties between Turkey and the United States have been strained in recent years over a host of issues ranging from Ankara’s purchase of a Russian defense system and disagreements over Syria policy. Washington has also been upset over Turkey’s detention of locally employed US diplomatic mission workers accused of ties to a network that Ankara blames for a coup attempt in 2016.

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