Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Washington for coming under the influence of the US ambassador in Ankara over a visa dispute, which has strained relations between the between the two allies.
Erdogan reiterated his opinion that US Ambassador John Bass was behind the decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services in Turkey in a speech on Thursday.
“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn’t say this,” he said.
“It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey’s strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador. It is impossible for us to say ‘yes’ to this.”
The US mission in Turkey announced on Sunday that it had stopped all non-immigrant visa services amid concerns over “the security of US mission and (its) personnel”. Ankara reiterated reciprocally hours later, using similar language.
The development is an unprecedented escalation between the two NATO allies and represents a major fallout in bilateral relations.
Turkish authorities last week detained Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen working for the US consulate in Istanbul.
US denies claims
Ambassador Bass told reporters on Wednesday the US government had still not received any official explanation from the Turkish government for why the employee was arrested.
He dismissed allegations that suspects in Turkish anti-terror probes are hiding in US diplomatic outposts in Turkey.
Bass also said that the Turkish move “raised questions about whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation” between Washington and Ankara.
Topuz is accused of having links to a group associated with Fethullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader and businessman based in the US and wanted in Turkey.
Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt that killed more than 300 people.
President Erdogan has repeatedly called on Washington to extradite Gulen since the coup attempt, but the US has refused.
Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said earlier on Thursday that Turkey received a proposal from the US to resolve an escalating row between the two countries and Ankara was currently evaluating it.