Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Turkish PM Urges Resolution to Visa Dispute with US | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55384949

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to the media during a press conference in Ankara. (AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged on Tuesday an end to the dispute with the United States over the recent suspension of visa services between the two countries.

The US suspension of visa services in Turkey punishes ordinary citizens and the problem must be resolved immediately, he demanded.

“Turkey is not a tribal state, we will retaliate against what has been done in kind,” Yildirim told ruling AK Party parliamentarians.

“We call on the United States to be more reasonable. The issue must of course be resolved as soon as possible,” he said, describing US behavior as “unbecoming” of an ally.

“Who are you punishing? You are making your citizens and ours pay the price, this is not being serious. You can’t run a country with emotional decisions,” the PM added.

The US embassy in Ankara said on Sunday night it was suspending non-immigrant visa services after the arrest of a locally employed US consulate employee in Istanbul last week.

The employee was detained on charges of espionage and alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement. Turkey retaliated by halting visas services in the US.

Yildirim also slammed Washington for the arrest of a Turkish banker for his alleged role in helping Iran escape US sanctions, and for its failure to extradite Gulen, who Turkey says was behind last year’s failed coup. Gulen has denied involvement.

Yildirim said his country does not need Washington’s permission to prosecute its citizens.

“Turkey is a state of law. … Were we to seek the permission of the (US) gentlemen?”

On Tuesday, Turkish police launched an operation to arrest 70 soldiers accused of links to Gulen, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Operations targeting Gulen supporters are continuing on a daily basis some 15 months after the failed putsch. In the last week alone, around 800 people were held over alleged ties to him.

Among those targeted in the police raids, focused in the central Turkish city of Konya but launched simultaneously across seven provinces, were two colonels, seven captains and 36 lieutenants, Dogan said.

Sixty-two of the suspects were in the air force, some of them pilots, it added. Police were conducting searches of their homes and places of work.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial over links to Gulen, while 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the public and private sectors since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, in which 250 people were killed.

Some of Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups have voiced concern that the government is using the coup investigations as a pretext to crack down on dissent.

Ankara argues that only such a purge could neutralize the threat represented by Gulen’s network, which it says infiltrated institutions such as the military, judiciary and schools.