BELGRADE (Monitoring Desk): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly criticized the US decision to suspend issuing visas to Turkish citizens, following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen employed at the US consulate in Istanbul.
“There is nothing to discuss with the US if the administration initiated the visa row,” Erdogan said on Tuesday, while speaking at a joint news conference with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, in Belgrade. Erdogan questioned whether the move was made by the US ambassador to Ankara or the administration itself.
If Turkey’s ambassador to the US made such a move on his own, “we would not keep him there for a second,” Erdogan said, as cited by the Turkiye newspaper, adding that in that case the row could simply be resolved by the US sacking the ambassador and overturning the ban.
The Turkish president denounced US Ambassador John Bass, stating that “we don’t see him as a representative of the United States in Turkey” and adding that senior Turkish officials would not receive his farewell visits.
While Turkey retains the right to detain and prosecute its citizens working for the US, Washington should ask itself how and why such “spies” infiltrated their diplomatic facilities in the first place, Erdogan said.
“The US needs to evaluate: How did these spies get in here? Who put them in here? No state will allow such spies. Turkey is not a tribal state,” Erdogan stated, apparently referring to Topuz and another consulate employee for whom the Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant.
The president’s remarks were echoed by Turkey’s PM, Binali Yildirim. “Turkey is not a tribal state, we will retaliate against what has been done in kind,” Yildirim told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs on Tuesday.
While promising “retaliation,” Yildirim also took a somewhat reconciliatory stance, urging the US to be “more reasonable” and resolve the visa row “as soon as possible.”
“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 recent flashpoint in Turkey-US relations emerged last Wednesday with the arrest of Topuz, a US consulate employee in Istanbul, over alleged links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara named as a mastermind behind the 2016 botched coup attempt.
The arrest was criticized by the US embassy in Turkey as “devaluing” for relations between the two countries.