Turkey's Erdogan turns fire on US ambassador in diplomatic spat over arrest

By bne IntelliNews October 11, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned his fire on the US ambassador to Turkey for the diplomatic spat that has blown up over the arrest of a staff member of the American embassy in Istanbul, hitting Turkey's stock market, currency and bond yields. In response to the row, both countries have indefinitely suspended non-immigrant visa services for each other's citizens. Washington has defended the ambassador.

“We have not started this. If the ambassador took the decision [to suspend visa services] without consulting his superiors, the US administration should not keep him there even a minute,” Erdogan told reporters during a visit to Serbia.

“I don’t see him [Ambassador John Bass] as a representative of the US. I personally, our ministers and speaker of parliament did not and won’t accept his farewell visit,” Erdogan said.

Bass will leave Turkey soon  for his next assignment in Afghanistan.

Erdogan asked how “agents” could have infiltrated the US mission.

The US suspended visa services on October 8 after a US embassy staff member, a Turkish national, was arrested over his alleged links to US-based self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the failed coup of last year, and on charges of espionage.

A second US consulate employee has been summoned to testify as a suspect. The suspect’s wife and child have been arrested over alleged links to the Gulenist network, state-run news service Anadolu reported on October 9.

PM Binali Yildirm said the dispute should be resolved as soon as possible through dialogue but he still slammed the US.

“No one is above the law in Turkey and Turkey does not need Washington’s permission to prosecute Turkish citizens,” Yildirim said on October 10 at a meeting in parliament of the ruling AKP party, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

“Did you ask us before jailing a deputy director general of one of our state banks when on duty in your country? And why are you still harbouring the heinous head of the July 15 coup attempt?”

The US administration has defended ambassador Bass.

“Our ambassadors tend to not do things unilaterally. We have a very close coordination and cooperation with our ambassadors, and in particular ambassador Bass. His [action] was coordinated with the State Department, it was coordinated with the White House and coordinated with the NSC,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing on October 10.

“Ambassador Bass has our full backing not only here at the State Department, but also at the White House as well,” Nauert added.

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