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Erdogan says US visa suspension ‘upsetting’

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviews the guard of honor on his arrival in Ukraine, on October 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced as “upsetting” Washington’s decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services for Turkish nationals at US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

The US Embassy in Ankara announced on Sunday that it was immediately suspending all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey.

“The Embassy’s decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa applications is upsetting,” Erdogan said in a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Porochenko, in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev on Monday.

The US move came in response to the arrest of an employee of the US Embassy in Ankara earlier in the week, who has been accused by Turkish authorities of being linked to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a coup attempt last year.

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” by the arrest and rejected the allegations against the employee as “wholly without merit.”

A woman walks in front of the United States Embassy in Ankara, on October 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Erdogan’s expression of regret at the US suspension of visa services comes even as Turkey has taken the exact same measure against the US.

In response to Washington’s Sunday decision, the Turkish Embassy in Washington suspended all non-immigrant visa services in the US, citing security concerns.

Erdogan said in Kiev that Turkey was reciprocating the US’s decision.

Turkey witnessed a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish military declared that Erdogan’s government was no more in charge of the country. However, over the course of some two days, the putsch was suppressed.

Almost 250 people were killed and nearly 2,200 others wounded in the abortive coup.

Gulen has denied the charges of having masterminded the coup.

In a post-coup crackdown, Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, policemen, teachers, and civil servants and has arrested nearly 50,000 others.

Immediate economic impact

Meanwhile, the diplomatic row between the US and Turkey saw a 3.4-percent decrease in the value of the lira, which stood at 3.7385 against the dollar.

Turkey’s main BIST 100 stock index also dropped as much as 4.7 percent, closing the day down 2.73 percent at 101,298 points.

Airline shares were hit particularly hard, with flag carrier Turkish Airlines’ shares falling by 9 percent.

Turkey’s leading business association, TUSIAD, also said that the crisis would harm bilateral economic, social, and cultural relations, and urged disagreements to be settled calmly.

Turkey and the US, allies in the NATO, have had differences of opinion on major issues recently, including on the US’s support for Kurdish militants in Syria, which Ankara views as terrorists.

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