The United States embassy in Ankara says it is suspending, with immediate effect, all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey.
The move on Sunday means that Turks will not be given visas to visit the US unless they are planning to move there.
A statement issued by the US mission in the Turkish capital said recent events had forced the US government to reassess Ankara’s commitment 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 Muslim leader 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 an armed campaign for three decades in southeast Turkey.
Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the US to extradite Gulen.
Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman, reporting from Washington, DC, said that the move by US Embassy “represents a further ratcheting up of the tense tension between the two countries”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies