Turkey detains United States consulate worker's family as tension mounts

Erdogan

Turkish President ErdoganReuters

In response to Washington's move, Turkish authorities suspended U.S. visa applications on Monday.

The move follows the arrest of a US Consulate employee over suspected links with the network of the Philadelphia-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

President Tayyip Erdogan blamed the USA ambassador to Turkey on Tuesday for a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and said Ankara no longer considered him Washington's envoy.

U.S. consulates in Turkey indefinitely halted all non-immigrant visa services on Sunday, the American embassy said, after one of the mission's Turkish staffers was arrested in the latest dispute between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

The spat between the two countries was ignited by the recent arrest of Metin Topuz, a US consulate employee in Istanbul, over suspected links to USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of being behind a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey's President on Tuesday said that neither he nor his government recognized the United States ambassador to Ankara following the suspension of non-migration visas for Turkish nationals. It said that it was "deeply disturbed" by Turkey's decision to arrest a member of its diplomatic staff. "In order to prevent this situation from hurting ordinary citizens even more, this issue should be resolved as soon as possible through a high-level Turkish-US dialogue", former Turkish Ambassador to Washington Faruk Logoglu said, adding that problems in bilateral relations have been observed for some time and the visa crisis is just one more irritant.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday vowed that Turkish officials would boycott the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, stepping up one of the worst rows in decades between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

The US the says allegations are "without merit".

Turkish officials had expressed hope of a new page in Ankara-Washington relations under President Donald Trump after repeated bickering in the last months of Barack Obama's term.

The Trump administration halted visa services for Turkish citizens on Sunday, citing the October 4 arrest of a Turkish citizen employed at the USA consulate in Istanbul for alleged involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt.

Ties have also frayed over the refusal of the United States to extradite Gulen, and its support for Kurdish militias in Syria.

Ankara holds Gulen responsible for orchestrating the failed putsch, an accusation that he vehemently denies.

"We should not consider this as exclusively a reaction to the detentions of consulate employees". Several German nationals are also in custody as Ankara presses the USA to extradite the cleric it accuses of masterminding the coup, and urges Berlin to deport Turkish citizens who have claimed asylum there. "Neither side is willing to step back", he said.

A massive asteroid will approach Earth on Thursday
China lodges representations with US over destroyer's trespass on territorial waters