‘US still seeking explanation for arrest of staff in Turkey’

‘US still seeking explanation for arrest of staff in Turkey’
U.S. Ambassador John Bass attends a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday.
Updated 11 October 2017

‘US still seeking explanation for arrest of staff in Turkey’

‘US still seeking explanation for arrest of staff in Turkey’

ANKARA/WASHINGTON: The US has not yet received official communication from Ankara as to why a local staff of the US mission in Turkey was arrested, US Ambassador John Bass said on Wednesday, commenting on a diplomatic crisis between the NATO allies.
Bass, whom Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has blamed for the dispute, told reporters the US did not intend to disrupt its long-standing relationship with Turkey and the two countries would continue to engage on the issue.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the ruling AK Party said Turkey hopes the US will lift its decision on suspending visa services soon.
Speaking at an interview with broadcaster A Haber, Mahir Unal said Ankara hopes the escalating dispute between the NATO allies will not impact military operations. Turkey was holding talks at the Foreign Ministry level to resolve the US visa crisis, he also said.
The Pentagon on Tuesday said the escalating diplomatic row between Washington and Ankara has so far not impacted NATO or US military ties with Turkey.
The US relies heavily on an air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey to launch airstrikes against Daesh in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
“The Turkish air force base in Incirlik continues to fulfill an important role supporting NATO and coalition efforts,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said.
The diplomatic spat erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the American consulate on suspicion of links to the group blamed for last year’s failed coup.
In response, the US stopped issuing non-immigrant visas from its missions in Turkey, prompting Turkish missions in the US to hit back with a tit-for-tat step of their own.
WSJ journalist convicted
The Wall Street Journal said one of its reporters has been convicted in Turkey of terrorist propaganda and has been sentenced to two years and one month in prison.
The paper said late Tuesday that Ayla Albayrak, who has dual Finnish and Turkish citizenship, would appeal her conviction on the charge of engaging in propaganda supporting outlawed Kurdish rebels.
Albayrak’s conviction stemmed from an article she wrote in 2015 on a conflict between Kurdish militants and government forces in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Following the collapse of a truce in summer of 2015, the Turkish army engaged with fierce clashes with the PKK as it moved to push their militants out of city centers in the region.
Rights activists claim excessive force was used but the government says the operations were essential to bring security to city centers that had fallen under PKK control. Albayrak’s story featured interviews with the town mayor and residents, a Turkish government official, and a representative of an organization Turkey says is the PKK’s youth wing.
Turkey, as well as the US and the EU, consider the PKK a terrorist group.