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US suspends all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey

The United States Mission to Turkey says it has suspended processing all non-immigrant visa applications at its diplomatic facilities in the country.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Ankara on Sunday said recent events had forced the US government to reassess the commitment of the Turkish government to the security of US facilities and staff.

“In order to minimise 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 US diplomatic facilities in Turkey,” read the statement.

There was no immediate reaction from Ankara.

Arrest of US consulate’s employee

The move comes a few days after the arrest of a US consulate employee in Istanbul for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric 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.

US-Turkish tensions have risen over Washington’s military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged armed campaign for three decades in southeast Turkey.

Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the US to extradite Gulen.

Al Jazeera reports that the move by US Embassy “represents a further ratcheting up of the tense tension between the two countries”.

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