Matthew Bryza decries US visa suspension decision as unprecedented and 'bad,' saying it punishes both sides

The recent U.S. move to suspend most visa services at its missions in Turkey was not only unprecedented, but also disappointing, said a former senior U.S. diplomat to the region.

Matthew Bryza, former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the U.S. visa decision amounted to "punishment" for both countries. He said conversations to resolve the crisis are continuing but that the tension has yet to be overcome.

Calling the suspension decision “bad,” he added, “The decision not only surprised me but also was disappointing. In my 23-year diplomatic career, I never thought or heard of anyone advising such a thing."

Bryza, now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank, also commented on Turkey's ongoing counter-terror operations in Syria, saying that it is doing what is necessary for its security.

But Bryza said Turkey had been left alone to deal with terrorism and border security.

"Turkey's biggest goal in Syria is defeating and eliminating Daesh completely, and not allowing the PYD to establish a Kurdish state along the Turkish border," he said, referring to the PKK/PYD, the terrorist PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

The PKK has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, during which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

"I believe that Turkey will be successful in its Idlib operation, just like its previous operations in the region," he said, referring to an ongoing operation in northwestern Syria to maintain a cease-fire and block terrorist groups.

Illegitimate KRG referendum

The former diplomat also voiced support for Turkey's opposition to last month’s illegitimate independence referendum of the northern Iraqi administration.

"In my opinion, Turkey, the central Iraqi administration, Iran and the U.S. not recognizing this referendum was absolutely the right decision,” he said. “

“Because it was an illegal referendum and was against the Iraqi Constitution. Under international law, there are two reasons for [seeking] legitimate independence. One being, a nation that wants to exit colonialism, which isn’t the case in Iraq, and the other is grave human rights violations, which also isn’t the case in the region. This definitely calls the legitimacy of this referendum into question.”

On the administration that held the illegitimate poll, he added, “The KRG [Kurdish Regional Government] couldn’t possibly exist without having strong economic ties with Turkey."

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara. (FILE Photo)