Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara does not recognize outgoing John Bass as the US ambassador in the Anatolian country and boycotts all official meetings with him, as a newly erupted visa crisis between the two countries further unfolds.
“The ambassador is currently paying farewell visits but neither our ministers, nor the parliament speaker, nor myself have accepted these farewell visits because we do not see him as the representative of the US in Turkey,” said the Turkish president in a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, on Tuesday.
John Bass, 53, has been Washington’s envoy to Turkey since October 2014 and is set to leave Turkey shortly, after his nomination for the US envoy to Afghanistan was confirmed by the Senate late last month. It is unprecedented in the history of Ankara-Washington relations for Turkey to say it no longer recognizes Washington’s ambassador.
His departure from Turkey comes amid a deepening visa crisis between Ankara and Washington, triggered on October 5, when Turkish authorities ordered the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish staff member at the US Consulate in Istanbul, accusing him of espionage and having links with the followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a coup attempt last year.
In response, the US Embassy in Ankara announced on Sunday that it was immediately suspending all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey, citing security concerns. Washington’s decision was not left unanswered. It prompted Ankara to freeze “all visa services” for Americans in the US in a tit-for-tat move.
“How did those spies infiltrate into the US Consulate? If they did not infiltrate, who put them there? No state would allow such spies that could threaten it from the inside,” Erdogan said at the presser, adding that Washington should dismiss Bass if he made the decision to suspend visa services in Turkey.