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Turkey summons US diplomat amid visa dispute

The Turkish Embassy in Washington (File photo)

Turkey has summoned the US embassy undersecretary and called for an end to a dispute between the two countries after they suspended visa services in a tit-for-tat fallout between the NATO allies.

Philip Kosnett was told that Washington's move in freezing visa services by US diplomatic missions in Turkey had caused "unnecessary tensions" and should be reversed, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said Monday.

The diplomatic row started after Turkish authorities ordered the arrest of an employee with the US Embassy in Ankara earlier in the week, accusing him of bearing links with the followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The US reacted to the arrest by suspending non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey on Sunday, prompting Ankara to freezing "all visa services" for Americans in the US.

The American Embassy staffer has been formally charged with espionage and seeking to overthrow the government.

The US mission on Thursday said it was "deeply disturbed" over the arrest and rejected the allegations against the employee as "wholly without merit."

The diplomatic spat is the worst deterioration in relations between the two NATO allies in recent years, coming at a time of Turkish grievances over US support for Kurdish militants in Syria, which Ankara views as terrorists.  

Turkey is already on a collision course with European members of the North Atlantic Alliance, especially Germany, which it has accused of giving refuge to Gulen supporters. 

On Sunday, the American Embassy in Ankara said non-immigrant visa services by US diplomatic missions in Turkey were being frozen as Washington was reassessing Turkey's "commitment" to the security of its diplomats. 

Travelers applying for non-immigrant visas need them for purposes of tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Immigrant visa services are only for those seeking to live in the US permanently.

Gulen is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ally-turned-archenemy, and is accused of masterminding a failed July 2016 coup against the Turkish state.

Back in May, US prosecutors charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault after an attack on anti-Erdogan protesters in Washington during the Turkish leader’s visit to the US capital.

Frame grab from footage allegedly showing a Turkish presidential guard hitting a protester in Washington in May, 2017

Erdogan reacted in early September by calling the charges against the security personnel “scandalous.”

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