Last month at the UN meetings in New York, President Donald Trump stated he was pleased to have a “personal relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and added US and Turkey were “as close as we have ever been.”
President Erdogan gladly returned the favor, speaking at his press conference of
“My dear friend Donald.”
We are one month on and diplomatic relations between the US and its NATO ally Turkey are at a very low point.
So what happened?
It all started two weeks ago when the Turkish government announced that it would arrest a US consulate worker of Turkish origin, named Metin Topuz, as he was accused of “facilitating the escape” from Turkey of “known Gulenists”.
You will remember that just last year the Turkish military tried to remove President Erdogan from power in a failed coup. The Turkish government claims that Mr. Fethullah Gulen is to blame for this coup. Mr. Gulen currently lives in the US.
The outgoing US ambassador to Turkey, Mr. John Bass, called back home and warned the State Department that Turkey was arresting a US consular worker.
The United States then announced just before the weekend that it was immediately suspending the issuance of non-immigrant visas in Turkey.
In a tit-for-tat move, Ankara (the Turkish administrative capital) responded likewise with identical restrictions, immediately disrupting the travel plans of countless Turkish and American tourists and students.
Tourism for Turkey was already down due to lower visitors from Europe, and this will aggravate the situation even further.
To make matters even worse, the Turkish lira dropped to a very low rate against the US dollar and other currencies on the news.
Mr. Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist, said: “This sparked concerns over the stability of the lira. Turkey has a huge current account deficit and therefore a huge need for funding."
And the latest came in the form of a speech by Turkish president Erdogan, on a visit to Ukraine, where he said: "For the US ambassador in Ankara to take a decision like this, to put it into practice, is saddening.”