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Both the United States and Turkey have suspended all non-immigrant visa services for travel between the two countries, after last week’s arrest of a US consulate employee in Istanbul.

With some exceptions, the move effectively blocks Turks from travel to the United States, and vice versa, indefinitely.

“Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of US mission and personnel,” the statement by the US mission in Ankara said.

Just 24 hours after the announcement by the United States, Turkey retaliated through its embassy in Washington, issuing a statement that effectively mirrors the one released by the United States — only the countries’ names were reversed.

“Recent events have forced Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the United States to the security of Turkish Mission facilities and personnel.”

The Turkish embassy said the measure, effective immediately, would “apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border.”

The US move, meanwhile, means that Turks will not be issued visas to visit the United States unless they plan to move there.

Access blocked

When CNN attempted to access the e-visa process through the Turkish government’s visa application website, a message denying eligibility appeared.

“Unfortunately, nationals of the country that you selected are not eligible for e-Visa. Kindly visit the nearest Turkish mission to apply for a visa application.”

The message added a link for a list of Turkish embassies and consulates.

More than 37,000 US nationals traveled to Turkey in 2016, down from 88,301 in 2015, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The majority of US nationals visiting Turkey buy their visas at the border, usually at international airports such as Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

Turkey is not part of the US visa waiver program; Turkish nationals are required to apply for a non-immigrant visa through US missions.

Non-immigrant visas include those for business, tourism and study, as well as more specialist visas, including journalist and diplomatic visas.

The US Department of State had no updated information regarding Turkish visa applications, and appeared to still be offering interviews for visa applicants.

The US’ National and Tourist Office doesn’t provide a breakdown of the total number of Turkish visitors to the US on its website.

Direct flights to the US from Turkish cities remained purchasable from Turkish airlines; there are no US carriers that fly direct to Turkey.

‘Deeply disturbed’

The United States said it was “deeply disturbed” by the consulate employee’s arrest, after he was charged over alleged links to Pennsylvania-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey, a NATO member, has pushed for the United States to extradite Gulen, who it blames for last summer’s failed coup, although Gulen himself denies any involvement.

Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Serdar Kılıç, told reporters in July that he sensed a “willingness” on the part of US officials to move forward on an extradition request against the US-based cleric, one year after the failed coup attempt the Turkish government has accused Gulen of orchestrating.

However Kılıç also expressed frustration with the slow pace of those proceedings, and suggested the US administration could take further steps outside the extradition process to censure Gulen.

Ankara has previously jailed US citizens it accuses of having Gulenist sympathies. American pastor Andrew Brunson was detained a year ago, following the coup, on charges of trying to overthrow the Turkish government and its constitution. Brunson denies the charges.

US President Donald Trump raised the issue of Brunson’s imprisonment in Turkey three times during a meeting with the Turkish president in May when the two leaders met for the first time, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Middle East

Erdogan: Israel a ‘terrorist state’ that kills children

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has described Israel as a “terror state,” while urging leaders of Arab countries to act following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Israel is a state of occupation and a terror state,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on Dec. 10, vowing that Turkey “will not leave Jerusalem to the consciousness of a child-killer state.”

“Jerusalem is the light of our eyes. We won’t leave it to the conscience of a state that only values occupation and looting. We will continue our struggle decisively within the law and democracy,” he added.

On Dec. 6, Trump announced the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, saying the U.S. Embassy would relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a dramatic shift in Washington’s Jerusalem policy.

While demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkey and other Muslim-majority countries have been ongoing since the recognition, Erdoğan has been one of the most vocal leaders to slam Washington’s move.

“Palestine is oppressed and a victim. Israel is absolutely a state of occupation. Israel has never recognized any decision adopted concerning it, especially United Nations decisions, and it will never do so,” Erdoğan said, also presenting a series of maps showing how Israel has expanded its borders by occupying Palestinian territories since 1947.

“Look at this scene, do you see this treachery?” he said, pointing to Israeli expansion.

Erdoğan also showed a picture of a 14-year-old blindfolded Palestinian boy surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

“Look at how these terrorists are dragging a 14-year-old blindfolded child,” he said, describing Trump’s statement on Jerusalem as “null and void” for Turkey.

“We will continue to stand with the oppressed. We will use every opportunity we have for our first qibla, Jerusalem. We’ve been carrying out intense phone diplomacy since the dire decision of the U.S. I’ve held phone calls with the heads of many governments and states, including the Pope. We’ve told them that this issue is not one that only concerns Muslims; it is also the seizure of the rights of Christians. But I must say clearly that this step of the U.S. is completely an Evangelist understanding,” he added.

An extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is scheduled to be held in Istanbul on Dec. 13, hosting the leaders of Muslim-majority countries.

“With the roadmap that we will determine [at the OIC meeting], we will show that the realization of this decision [moving of the embassy] will not be easy at all,” he added.

Earlier on, Erdoğan urged Arab leaders and Muslim countries to present a “united stance” on the issue.

“The Arab League will be present at the meeting on Dec. 13. Its term president, Jordanian King Abdullah II, thinks the same as us. Islamic countries must present a united stance on this issue,” he said.

“The dividedness and internal problems of the Islamic world have made it easier for the U.S. to adopt such a decision. What’s happening in Iraq and Syria are also out in the open. Libya, Egypt and Yemen are also experiencing serious problems. This Jerusalem step shows how some have been taking advantage of this situation. We need to be vigilant as Muslims,” Erdoğan added.

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Turkey

Erdogan: Jerusalem status a red line for Muslims

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel over reports that the United States plans to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Such a move would be a “red line” for Muslims, Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Reports emerged on Friday that US President Donald Trump was considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that would be symbolised by relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, upsetting decades of US policy.

The plan has drawn criticism from a number of world leaders, who fear it would further escalate regional tensions.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump by telephone that Jerusalem’s status must be decided in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Arab League was holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss developments on the status of Jerusalem, after a request by Palestinian officials.

The diplomatic adviser of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian leadership would cut contact with the US if it recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem’s status is an extremely sensitive aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims the city as its capital, following the occupation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan, and considers Jerusalem to be a “united” city.

Palestinians have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, and the international community, including the US, does not recognise Israel’s jurisdiction over and ownership of the city.

President Donald Trump is also considering moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said an announcement would be made “in coming days” but that the president remained committed to the move: “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” he said.

However, Trump was expected to continue delaying moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite his campaign promise to do so.

US Congress passed legislation in 1995 to move the embassy by 1999, but a provision in the law allowed the president to sign a waiver every six months, in the interests of national security.

Every president since 1998 has done so, including Trump in June. The deadline for the current waiver will expire on Monday.

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Ethiopia

Ethiopia summons diplomat over misconduct in Turkey

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The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday revealed that it is investigating the alleged misconduct that an Ethiopian diplomat committed while on duty in Turkey recently.

Various media outlets reported earlier this week that an unnamed staff member from the Ethiopian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was involved in two accidents, and refused to cooperate with police forces.
The diplomat was also reported to be involved in a car accident on same occasion, after his car hit another car and caused it to collide with a taxi, an incident that injured one person.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Friday that it has summoned the diplomat following his alleged misconduct.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia has summoned an Ethiopian diplomat who was assigned at the Ethiopian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey following his alleged misconduct occurred over the weekend,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry, Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopian Foreign Minister, has ordered the establishment of a committee to make inquiries into the case.

The ministry has also pledged to deal with the case with “no tolerance” and subsequently plans to take appropriate disciplinary measures.
The diplomat has returned to Ethiopia to appear before the recently established committee, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry, however, did not disclose the identity of the diplomat.

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