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US, Turkey Suspend Visa Services in Escalating Row

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The United States and Turkey on Sunday scaled back visa issuing services in each other's countries in a deepening diplomatic row sparked by the arrest of a Turkish staffer at the American mission in Istanbul.

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The US embassy in Ankara said that "recent events" forced the US government to reassess Turkey's "commitment" to the security of US mission services and personnel in the country.

In order to minimize the number of visitors while the assessment is carried out, "effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey," it said.

Non-immigrant visas are issued to all those travelling to the United States for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Immigrant visa services are only for those seeking to live in the US permanently.

Turkey responded by suspending "all visa services" for Americans in the US, saying the measures also apply to visas issued online and at the border.

In an apparent attempt to mock the US announcement, the Turkish embassy in Washington issued two statements that were almost word-for-word copies of that from the American embassy in Ankara.

The statements said concerns over US commitment to the security of Turkish diplomatic facilities and personnel necessitated the restrictions, but the fact that they only apply to Americans and also include visas issued at the border and online indicate the move is punitive rather than security-based.

The first statement from the Turkish embassy said the restrictions apply to "visas in passports" while the second replaced that wording with "sticker visas".

It was unclear if that meant that visas already stamped in passports would not be accepted.

Beyond its mention of "recent events", the American embassy statement made no explicit mention of the arrest by Turkish authorities of a local Turkish staffer working at the US consulate in Istanbul.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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