Suspension of services not visa ban, applies only to consideration of new visa applications, John Bass says.
The U.S. on Monday clarified its decision to suspend non-immigrant visa operations at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey, emphasizing that it only applies to the consideration of new visa applications.
“If you have a valid visa, you can still travel to the United States. If you want to apply for a visa at another U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Turkey, you are free to do so,” U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass said in a statement.
Bass justified the decision to scale back non-immigrant visa services at the U.S. embassy and consulates in Turkey after it failed to gather information from Turkish authorities on why a Turkish staff member of its diplomatic mission was arrested last week.
“Despite our best efforts to learn the reasons for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee. The employee works in an office devoted to strengthening law enforcement cooperation with Turkish authorities and ensuring the security of Americans and Turkish citizens. Furthermore, our colleague has not been allowed sufficient access to his attorney,” he added.
“Our local staff members are Turkish citizens and we, of course, expect them to observe Turkish law like any other citizen of the Republic. They have a right to expect Turkish authorities will provide appropriate legal protections and due process, including the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, in accordance with the Turkish constitution, and the principles of rule of law that all modern democracies follow,” he added.
He noted that this was not a decision the U.S. took lightly and it was taken “with great sadness”.
“We hope it will not last long, but at this time we can’t predict how long it will take to resolve this matter. The duration will be a function of ongoing discussions between our two governments about the reasons for the detention of our local staff members and the Turkish government’s commitment to protecting our facilities and our personnel here in Turkey,” he added.
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced it had suspended non-immigrant visa services at all diplomatic facilities in Turkey. In response, Turkey's Washington Embassy suspended non-immigrant visa services in the U.S., citing security concerns.
The decision came after Turkish national Metin Topuz, confirmed by the U.S. Istanbul Consulate as a local employee, was remanded in custody over terror charges by an Istanbul court last week.
Topuz is linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind last year’s defeated coup in Turkey, according to a judicial source.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the attempted coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Topuz has been linked to a number of FETO suspects, including police commissioners and former prosecutor Zekeriya Oz, a fugitive accused of attempting to overthrow the government through the use of force, added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.