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Erdogan Boycotts US Ambassador as Visa Row Intensifies | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Ambassador to Turkey John R. Bass during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

Ankara – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he would boycott US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, holding him responsible for a US-Turkish row over the issuance of visas.
During his visit to Belgrade, Erdogan said Turkey no longer regarded ambassador John Bass as the US representative to the country, adding that the Turkish government would not receive him on his farewell tour before leaving Ankara in the coming days, following his appointment as ambassador to Kabul.
The dispute erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the American consulate on suspicion of links to the group blamed for last year’s failed coup.
In response, the United States stopped issuing non-immigrant visas from its missions in Turkey, prompting Turkish missions in the United States to hit back by adopting the same measures against the US.
Speaking at a news conference with President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Erdogan said: “We have not agreed and are not agreeing to this ambassador making farewell visits with ministers, the parliament speaker and myself.”
“We do not see him as the representative of the United States in Turkey,” he continued.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on Washington to adopt a more rational attitude towards the visa crisis, describing the suspension of granting visas to the Turks for “security reasons” as a “blatant contradiction.”
Meanwhile, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul rejected earlier this week a request by the US Ambassador for a meeting, Turkish media outlets reported.
Commenting on his country’s decision to stop issuing non-immigrant visas for Turks, Bass said in a statement published at the embassy’s website: “The suspension allows us to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while we assess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of our diplomatic facilities and personnel.”
He explained: “For the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities.  Despite our best efforts to learn the reasons for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee.”
In March, a Turkish employee at the US consulate in the southern city of Adana was arrested on charges of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkish economic officials warned that the suspension of visas between the United States and Turkey would damage bilateral trade, which amounts to $17.5 billion per year.
The president of the Turkish-American Business Council, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, said that the two states needed each other politically and economically, and “we want to solve the problems without their reflection on economic relations, but if it affects national security, no country can make concessions.”
In parallel, the Turkish authorities issued a decision to detain 70 officers, suspected of having links to Fethullah Gulen’s movement, after their arrest in Istanbul, Ankara, Kayseri, Izmir, Eskisehir and Yalova.
Those included 62 air force officers, four from the naval forces and four gendarmes.