In the latest tit for tat between NATO allies Turkey and the United States, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a travel advisory urging the country’s citizens to reconsider visiting the U.S., citing security concerns.
“We observe an increasing number of terror plots and acts of violence in the U.S.,” said the Foreign Ministry on its website. The advisory listed a series of incidents that have occurred since 2016, including at Ohio State University, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport in Florida, the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Minnesota and a church in Texas.
The Foreign Ministry also warned of the danger of vehicles ramming pedestrians and armed terrorists launching attacks, saying these incidents might occur in city centers, cultural activity areas, metro stations, public buildings, prayer centers and even on school campuses.
The travel advisory cited the risk posed by far right and racist groups, and it urged Turkish citizens to take precautionary measures.
Similar U.S. advisory
The advisory mirrors one issued Friday by the State Department in which U.S. officials urge Americans to reconsider traveling to Turkey. The warning, in part, cited two specific risks, “terrorism and arbitrary detentions.” The advisory included a long list of towns and cities to avoid in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish region, where an insurgency along the Syrian border is ongoing.
Several U.S. citizens are currently detained in Turkey under a state of emergency. They are accused of links to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and is blamed for a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. He denies involvement. The U.S. has refused Turkish demands for his extradition.
On Thursday, Ankara-based U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Philip Kosnett was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive an official protest over the categorization of Turkey as a country with an increased security risk, along with Sudan, Pakistan and Guatemala.
“These are not good things,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday. “Creating the perception that Turkey is an insecure country will harm Turkey-U.S. relations.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, on a trip to Los Angeles on Friday, said the U.S. travel advisory was “unnecessary.”
The diplomatic dispute came after the two NATO allies resolved a dispute over visas.
Last year, Washington suspended the issuance of nearly all visas in Turkey, in response to the detention of two of its local employees. Ankara retaliated with similar measures. The dispute was resolved in December following intense diplomatic talks, with Washington saying it had received guarantees for its local employees regarding any future investigations against them.
Bilateral relations are also strained over other issues. They include U.S. support of a Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, which Ankara accuses of being linked to an insurgency in Turkey. On Tuesday, Kosnett received an official protest about U.S. military support to the YPG.
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Turkey would not extradite any suspects to the United States until Gulen was sent back.
“We have given the United States 12 terrorists so far, but they have not given us back the one we want. They made up excuses from thin air,” Erdogan said at a meeting at the presidential palace.”If you’re not giving him to us, then sorry, but from now on whenever you ask us for another terrorist, for as long as I hold office, you will not get them.”
January’s conviction in New York of Turkish state banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran has added to the tensions. Erdogan alleged the conviction was part of a conspiracy by the FBI and CIA against him and his government.
Despite the diplomatic dust-ups and increasingly angry rhetoric from Ankara, analysts predict self-interest will contain the current tensions.
“The relations keep getting worse and worse, but I don’t think we are at a breaking point,” said political columnist Semih Idiz of the Al Monitor website. “We know all this is going down very badly in Washington, but Washington has bases in Turkey, Washington has strategic listening posts in Turkey, Washington has logistical military infrastructure in Turkey, so it has to balance these things out, and this is what Ankara is banking on.”