U.S. urges Turkey to provide evidence for detaining staff
12 Oct 2017, 03:48 ( 5 days ago)
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass on Wednesday demanded Turkey provide clear evidence for linking a detained consular staff to illegal activities, amid an ongoing diplomatic crisis.
"Allegations made against our local staff are very serious allegations. We want to understand the substantial charges which support these allegations," said Bass during a meeting with a small group of reporters.
He was referring to Metin Topuz, a veteran Turkish employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, who was detained last week for alleged link with the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for having masterminded the failed coup in July 2016.
"Unfortunately the U.S. government has still not received official communication on our detained local staff," Bass said, noting, however, that the two countries are in contact on the particular issue.
Turkey considers the Gulen network as a "terrorist organization" and suspects linked to it will face severe terrorism charges.
Bass dismissed Turkey's accusations against Topuz as "baseless."
He said Topuz, as a staff of the Drug Enforcement Agency, had remarkable achievements in cooperation with the Turkish authorities that "led a lot of narcotics off the street."
Meanwhile, Bass denied Turkish press reports alleging that a second U.S. consulate employee was hiding inside after an arrest warrant was issued against him, saying that "no one is hiding in any of our facilities."
The U.S. and Turkey on Sunday mutually suspended non-immigrant visa services to each other's citizens, a move that has further soured the ties between the two NATO allies.
Bass said that the suspension of U.S. visa services in Turkey "is not a measure we are enjoying," but "it is necessary to prevent our other local staff from suffering the same fate."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday blamed the U.S. ambassador during a visit in Serbia for the diplomatic spat, saying Ankara no longer considers him as Washington's envoy.
In a blunt and personal criticism directed at Bass, Erdogan said the U.S. envoy acted unilaterally in suspending U.S. visa services in Turkey after the arrest of Topuz.
Bass is soon to leave Turkey for Kabul to take up his new post as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. Erdogan said his government members were boycotting Bass' farewell activities in the Turkish capital Ankara.
But the U.S. State Department made clear on Tuesday that the visa services suspension was a "coordinate move" by the U.S. government.
The dispute has led the tense ties between the two NATO allies to plunge to a new low after months of a row on the conflict in Syria, the failed coup attempt in Turkey, and U.S. court cases against Turkish officials.