Turkish lira tumbles as row with US worsens; visa systems frozen



ISTANBUL, Shabtai Gold (dpa)- Turkey's electronic visa system stopped accepting applications from US passport holders Monday, amid a worsening row between the nations, prompted by the arrest last week of a US consulate employee.
Both nations, NATO allies, suspended non-immigrant visa services on Sunday. The policy will have the biggest effects on those not moving permanently, such as tourists, business representatives and students.



The tension caused the Turkish lira to dive versus the greenback and euro. The BIST 100 stock index was down more than 3 per cent, with Turkish Airlines' stock leading losses, sliding more than 9 per cent, amid concerns about the affect on air traffic between the nations.
The lira was trading at about 3.71 to the greenback, from about 3.61 before the weekend. The Turkish currency also lost ground against the euro, sliding to 4.36 from 4.24, already a record low.
The crisis showed no signs of abating, as Turkish authorities were seeking another US consulate employee and also detained his wife and son for questioning, broadcaster NTV reported, citing a prosecutor.
TUSIAD, the top Turkish business organization, urged a quick resolution to the crisis, stressing the importance of maintaining good bilateral ties.
Turkey asked the US to back down from its decision, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Philip Kosnett, the US charge d'affaires, was called into the Foreign Ministry in Ankara for talks, the report said.
Last week, the US said it was "deeply disturbed" by the arrest of a staff member, a Turkish national, who worked at its consulate in Istanbul. It rejected accusations against him, including charges of espionage. He is the second staff member arrested this year.
The US embassy in Ankara on Sunday cited a need to "reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel," as its reason for suspending all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey.
A similar statement, using near identical language, followed hours later from the Turkish embassy in Washington.
"Sorry. Unfortunately, nationals of the country that you selected are not eligible for e-Visa," a message on the Turkish e-visa system reads if a US passport holder applies, advising US citizens to contact a Turkish diplomatic mission.
However, adding to the confusion, the Turkish embassy in Washington also said: "Effective immediately we have suspended all visa services regarding US citizens at our diplomatic and consular missions in the US."
QNB Finansbank in Turkey said the moves between Turkey and the United States were a "milestone" in already strained relations.
More than 300,000 Turkish passport holders visited the US last year. The number of US citizens visiting Turkey in 2016 was 459,000, which was down from 798,000 the previous year. Last year, Turkey experienced a significant decline in tourism owing to unrest.
A number of US citizens are being detained in Turkey, including a Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson. German citizens, including two journalists and a human rights worker, are also behind bars. Other European nations say they too have had citizens arrested.
Some politicians have described the Western citizens as "hostages" in Turkey.
Ankara wants the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric. It is also demanding that Germany hand over some of the preacher's followers who claimed asylum in the European nation.
The Turkish government accuses Gulen, a one-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of plotting a military coup last year. Gulen denies the charges. Some 50,000 people are jailed in Turkey, accused of links to Gulen, in a crackdown after the bloody coup attempt.
The arrested US consulate employee is accused of having links to Gulen. John Bass, the ambassador in Ankara, rejected the claim, saying some in the Turkish government were seeking "revenge" rather than justice.
Adding to the strained ties with Washington, Turkey has been growing closer to Iran and Russia, in part due to efforts to reach a deal in Syria and also amid Turkish efforts to purchase an advanced missile systems from Moscow.
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Tuesday, October 10th 2017
Shabtai Gold
           


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