Tillerson to Turkish FM: US is concerned over detention of consulate staff

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Wednesday that the Washington administration is profoundly concerned over the detention of Turkish employees of the US Consulate General in İstanbul and several American citizens.

According to a press release from the State Department, Tillerson spoke with Çavuşoğlu by phone on Wednesday about an ongoing spat between Ankara and Washington as the countries had suspended visa services following the arrest a Turkish national who works for the US Consulate General in İstanbul on Oct. 4.

According to the press release, Tillerson emphasized the importance of transparency in the accusations made by the Turkish government and the need for the Turkish government to present the evidence behind these accusations.

“Secretary Tillerson and Foreign Minister Calculus agreed the two sides would remain in close contact to address U.S. concerns about these detentions,” it read.

Metin Topuz, a staff member of the US Consulate General in İstanbul, had been arrested on Oct. 4 on espionage charges and alleged links to some leading members of the faith-based Gülen movement. Local media on Monday revealed that Turkish authorities issued a detention warrant for another US Consulate employee over alleged Gülen movement links on Sunday morning. Police were unable to detain him because he has remained in the consulate building.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Friday, Bass said some in the Turkish government are motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

The US Embassy in Ankara on Sunday announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey.

The Gülen movement is a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Erdoğan accuse of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite Gülen’s repeated denials of any involvement.

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