By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ISTANBUL — The United States said on Sunday that it was suspending nonimmigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey after the arrest of a consulate employee, prompting Turkey to halt visa services in America.
The United States Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, issued a statement from the United States Mission to Turkey saying that recent events had forced it to “reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.”
The Turkish Embassy in Washington responded with a similar statement late Sunday, saying it would “reassess the commitment of the government of the United States to the security of Turkish mission facilities and personnel.” It said the measures would apply to e-Visas, visas issued at borders and visas in passports.
Last week, the Turkish authorities arrested a United States Consulate employee of Turkish nationality over alleged links to the network of the United States-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government blames for last summer’s failed coup. Mr. Gulen denies involvement. The employee, Metin Topuz, is accused of espionage and “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and constitution.”
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that he was accused of communicating with former police chiefs in a 2013 corruption inquiry, 121 people involved in the attempted coup and hundreds of people using an encrypted mobile messaging app. The United States Embassy said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest.
The American statement said the suspension of nonimmigrant visa services was “effective immediately” to minimize visitor numbers to the United States Embassy and Consulate for now. The suspended services will affect visas for business people, tourists, medical patients, students, journalists and treaty trader, as well as diplomatic and official visas.
Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over disagreements about Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom the United States backs in the war against the Islamic State. Turkey considers them a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged an insurgency within Turkey for more than 30 years.
A brawl during a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to Washington in May led to the indictment of 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials. Mr. Erdogan called the indictment “scandalous” and said that his security detail had been protecting him against Kurdish militants protesting outside his ambassador’s residence.