The US embassy in Ankara will be shut down starting Tuesday due to a security threat, it said in a statement. The reopening date is yet to be scheduled. The move comes amid tensions between the US and Turkey.
Starting March 5, the Embassy will provide “only emergency services,” the Monday announcement said. Routine actives, including visa interviews will not be held during the period of restrictions. The notice also advised US citizens in Turkey should avoid large crowds, keep a low profile and otherwise be cautious.
Also on Monday, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported the arrest of 12 people in Ankara as part of an investigation into suspected jihadists. The 12 were among 20 people in the case, for whom arrest warrants were issued by the state prosecutor’s office, the report said. It was not immediately clear whether the arrests were connected to the closure of the embassy. The Anadolu report was published hours after the US announcement.
The embassy move comes amid a period of high tension between Turkey and the US over Ankara’s cross-border military operation in Syria. Turkish troops and proxy forces are attacking the US-supported Kurdish militias, which the Turkish government considers a security threat.
The militias played the role of ground troops for the US-led coalition during the siege of Raqqa, the former Syrian stronghold of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Washington continues to support the Syrian Kurds, although it pledged to stop arming them to address the concerns of the Turks.
For Turkey the Syrian Kurdish militias are an extension of their domestic Kurdish insurgency, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.