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Turkey issues tit-for-tat travel warning for US

Tensions have been running high between Washington and Ankara [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 January, 2018

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Citing the risk of 'terror attacks' and 'arbitrary detentions', Turkey issued a travel warning urging its citizens to reconsider their travel plans to the United States on Friday.
Turkey issued a travel warning urging its citizens to reconsider their travel plans to the US on Friday, citing the risk of terror attacks and arbitrary detentions.

The move follows a US State Department advisory on Wednesday which urged Americans to reconsider visiting Turkey due to security concerns.

A statement by the Turkish foreign ministry - using almost identical language to the original US advisory - warns of an increase in terrorism and "risk of arbitrary detention" in America.

Relations between the two NATO allies have become increasingly strained over a number of issues, including Turkey's detention of two Turkish employees of US diplomatic missions in the country.

Washington suspended visa services for Turkish citizens after Istanbul consulate staffer Metin Topuz was arrested in October over suspected links to a cleric blamed for Turkey's 2016 failed coup.

In a tit-for-tat move at the time, Turkey responded by suspending visa services.

But that crisis was resolved in December when the US said it had won assurances from Ankara that no further legal proceedings would be launched against its staff, though Turkey insisted it had given no assurances.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been holding Hamza Ulucay, a veteran translator from the US consulate in Adana since March 2017 on charges of links to Kurdish militants.

The two countries have also fallen out over the US' refusal to extradite US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey holds responsible for the 2016 coup attempt, and US military support for Kurdish rebels in Syria which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

The recent US State Department travel advisory listed a rigorous "Level 3" warning for Turkey, saying "some areas have increased risk".

It singled out areas along the Turkish-Syrian border and area where the Turkish army is fighting Kurdish militants, warning that US citizens could be accused of being linked to terror groups with "scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated".

In return, the Turkish foreign ministry said Turkish public sector employees in the US had been detained on "baseless allegations".

Ankara reacted furiously to last week's conviction in New York of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of violating sanctions against Iran.

Meanwhile, several bodyguards of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been indicted in absentia over a fracas during his visit to the US last year. 

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