Turkey Bars US Visitors In Latest Sign Of Fraying Alliance

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Turkey’s embassy in the U.S. is suspending the majority of visa services for American citizens as a diplomatic row between the two NATO allies grows.

The row began after Turkish security services detained a U.S. consular service worker for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in the U.S. blamed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for inciting a June 2016 coup attempt against him.

The U.S. responded Sunday, saying, the detention has “forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel.”

Turkey responded with a nearly identical message, barring most U.S. visitors from the country and summoning the top diplomat in Ankara to demand an explanation.

The extraordinary diplomatic tit-for-tat comes between two important NATO allies whose relations have been fraught for some time. These tensions are predominantely over disagreements on anti-Islamic State strategy and the June 2016 military coup.

Turkey is particularly upset with the U.S. for backing Kurdish militias in Syria against ISIS, including providing them weapons. Turkey regards many of the Kurdish militias as terrorists groups intent on agitating its own Kurdish population and has even taken steps to bomb them at certain points.

Erdogan also is furious with the U.S. for refusing to extradite Gulen to Turkey on dubious charges. The U.S has said it is willing to extradite the cleric if actual criminal evidence is presented against him, but nothing has been yet deemed credible by the Department of Justice.

Turkey took the extraordinary step of purchasing a Russian missile defense system, leading to concerns among NATO allies that inter-operability would suffer. “We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves — we are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country,” Erdogan defiantly said of his decision to purchase the system in September.

Diplomatic relations have also suffered between the two countries after Erdogan’s security detail brutally beat protestors during a state visit in March 2017. Many of guards were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for the action in the months following the incident leading to more widespread outrage in Turkey.

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