The United States Government and the Turkish government are enforcing new travel restrictions on each other. These come after a diplomatic disagreement that has strained the ties between both countries. It has been reported that a communications officer working in Istanbul at the U.S. consulate was accused and arrested for political and military espionage to overthrow the current Turkish government and its leader. Though the U.S. claims that these allegations are false, some believe that this might be one of the reasons for the restrictions on Turkish citizens.
On Sunday, October 8th, Washington announced that they would stop processing all of the non-immigrant visas in Turkey. In their statement, they have said that the U.S. government has been forced to "reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of US mission facilities and personnel." On a conference while visiting Ukraine, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressed his disappointment in the actions taken by the US, "For the embassy in Ankara to take such a decision and implement, it is upsetting."
The Turkish government prompted a quick reaction to the new travel rules. On Monday, Ankara retaliated by imposing similar restrictions on US travelers. Turkey has also shut down their online visa system for US citizens. Turkey has officially closed its borders to American nationals.
Turkey has been going through a difficult and sensitive political period after last year's attempted coup. Its relationship with Western nations has also been affected due to their opposing views on the war in Syria.
A strained relationship weakens even more
The U.S. embassy has said that they're disturbed by this arrest and that there are no grounds for these allegations. The detention of the communications officer in Istanbul is grounded on the suspicion that there was a connection to the Fethullah Gülen movement. It is believed that Gülen, who is currently in exile in Pennsylvania, is behind the coup that occurred last year. Ankara has requested Gülen be extradited without success.
The relationship between the US and Turkey has been a difficult one in recent years. The United States saw Turkey as a key ally to fight against the Islamic State as well Syria and Iraq. Under Barack Obama, the ties weakened due to the US views on Syria. Ankara protested Washington's support for Kurdish militia fighting against Isis.
Another issue between the two countries came after the failed coup. Turkey was angered with the United States slow reaction and their refusal to extradite Gulen. There was an assumption that under Trump's presidency the relationship would improve. President Trump has been vocal about his admiration toward Erdoğan. The US continued decision to support Kurdish militia depleted the willingness to work together.
These reciprocal restrictions will have an impact on all travelers. Turkish Airlines has stated that they are willing to refund those passengers traveling between the US and Turkey up until the end of October. It is yet to be determined what will happen with the imprisoned employee and how long the restrictions will last.