Erdogan vows to boycott American ambassador

Turkish President says Turkish officials will boycott the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, as dispute between the two countries continues.

Elad Benari ,

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday vowed that Turkish officials would boycott the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, amid a continued dispute between the two countries.

Erdogan said, according to the AFP news agency, that Turkey no longer regarded ambassador John Bass as the U.S. representative to Turkey after American missions in the country stopped issuing visas.

On Sunday, the U.S. mission in Turkey reduced visa services in response to a U.S. mission employee being detained in Turkey last week.

The Turkish mission in Washington subsequently announced a similar move, with both sides saying they needed to reassess each other's commitment to the security of their personnel.

Bass said on Monday that the duration of a suspension in visa services in Turkey would depend on talks between the two governments regarding the detention of Turkish staff at the U.S. embassy.

The U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul was arrested last week on charges of links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric blamed for last year's failed coup.

Gulen currently resides in exile in the United States. He leads a popular movement called Hizmet and split from Erdogan over a corruption scandal in 2013. Erdogan has long accused him of running a parallel state from abroad.

Turkey has pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Gulen over the July 2016 coup, in which more than 240 people were killed.

On Tuesday, Erdogan stepped up the rhetoric, saying, "We have not agreed and are not agreeing to this ambassador making farewell visits with ministers, the parliament speaker and myself."

"We do not see him as the representative of the United States in Turkey," the Turkish president said said at a news conference with President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

Bass is shortly to leave Turkey in any case, after being nominated the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan. Although Bass is in Turkey for only a few more days, it is unprecedented in the history of Turkish-U.S. relations for Ankara to say it no longer recognizes Washington's ambassador.

Erdogan said that the arrest of the consulate staffer, based on evidence found by the police, shows "something is going on at the Istanbul consulate."

Washington dismisses claims it was involved in the coup attempt as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt and has hinted it could have been “staged” by the government.