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Turkish PM Hails US Visa Move As a Positive Step


Ankara (AFP)-  Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday hailed the resumption of limited visa services by the U.S. as a “positive step” as he prepared to head to Washington.

The U.S. and Turkish embassies in Ankara and Washington announced on Monday they would start processing visa applications for each other’s citizens after an almost month-long suspension.

“The resumption of visa services, even if limited, is a positive step,” the Turkish prime minister said during a press conference at Ankara airport before his departure for the U.S.

He will meet with Vice President Mike Pence during the visit expected to last until Friday.

The diplomatic row began after the U.S. decided to stop handing out visas in Turkey on October 8, a step that was followed almost immediately by a tit-for-tat move by Ankara to stop issuing Turkish visas for Americans.

The U.S. move was in response to the arrest of a U.S. consulate staffer accused of having links to the group of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. The employee remains in custody.

Ankara blames Mr. Gulen for last year’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, charges the preacher strongly denies.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara said it resumed visa services after the Turkish government gave “assurances” that no other U.S. mission employee in Turkey was under investigation and that Turkey would inform the U.S. in advance if further arrests were made.

But the Turkish embassy in Washington said late Monday it could not provide “any assurances regarding files that are subject of ongoing legal processes.”

Mr. Yildirim said it would “not fit with the principles of the rule of law” to either give or ask for such reassurances.

Several American citizens are in custody in Turkey including pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in the western city of Izmir.

He has been held since October 2016 on charges of being a member of Gulen Movement.

Turkey continues to call for Mr. Gulen’s extradition, a bone of contention between the NATO allies and a subject the Turkish prime minister again brought up.

“Everything has been done for the extradition,” Mr. Yildirim said, referring to files sent to the U.S.

He added that Turkey expected the U.S. judiciary to start legal proceedings against Mr. Gulen.

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