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US, Turkey Resume ‘Limited’ Visa Processes

US, Turkey Resume ‘Limited’ Visa Processes

Tuesday, 7 November, 2017 - 11:30
A woman walks past the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, October 9, 2017. (Reuters)

The United States and Turkey announced that they were resuming “limited” visa processing applications for citizens of both countries after a diplomatic crisis erupted last month over Ankara’s detention of a US consulate employee.

Washington’s move came after it received reassurances from Ankara that no local staff would be detained or arrested for "performing their duties," the US Embassy said Monday.

"Based on these preliminary assurances, we believe the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services in Turkey," the embassy said in a statement.

A US embassy statement said it had received "high-level assurances" from Turkey that no additional local employees were under investigation.

The Turkish government also gave assurances that local staff members would not be detained or arrested "for performing their official duties" and that Washington would be given information in advance if Turkish officials intend to arrest local staff in the future.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington posted a brief statement on Twitter, announcing that it was also resuming "limited" visa services.

Last month, the United States halted most visa services for Turkish citizens after Turkish authorities arrested Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee at the US consulate in Istanbul, deepening already strained ties between Ankara and Washington. Turkey retaliated by halting visa services in the US for Americans who want to travel to Turkey.

The Turkish Embassy issued a second statement saying that no assurances were given to US officials over any ongoing legal case. The statement also insisted that Topuz was not arrested "not for performing his official duties but because of serious accusations" against him.

The announcements came a day before Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is due to travel to the United States to meet Vice President Mike Pence for talks aimed at mending frayed ties between the two NATO allies, including over Turkish demands for the extradition US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for last year's failed coup, and Washington's backing of Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Yildirim on Tuesday described the United States’ move to partially resume issuing visas in Turkey as a positive step, but said Washington should extradite Gulen.

“The limited reissuing of visas between the United States and Turkey... prior to our visit can be seen as a positive development,” he added.

Topuz was detained on charges of espionage and alleged ties to Gulen. He was the second local staff member at a US mission in Turkey to be held. The US Embassy denies the accusations against them.

The Turkish Embassy statement said Ankara also has grievances concerning legal cases against Turkish citizens in the US It didn't elaborate.

Gulen denies involvement in the attempted coup.

Yildirim said Gulen’s extradition would be discussed during his US visit, as well as the fate of some Turkish citizens arrested in the United States - a reference to the wealthy gold trader who was arrested over Iran sanctions evasion last year and an executive at a state-owned bank arrested this year.

“We have strong evidence that Gulen was behind the July 15 coup attempt and we want his extradition. We want the concerns we have regarding the cases of our citizens arrested in the United States to be eased,” Yildirim said.

“They also have similar requests, and diplomatic channels are being used for discussions, we are both seeking a way out.”

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