In Mutual Steps, US and Turkey Limitedly Restore Visa Services

Story Highlights

  • Visa move came before Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim's U.S. Visit
  • Turkey immediately followed the suit, announced easing issuance of visas for US citizens
  • Mutual moves may help improvement in strained relations

In mutual steps, Turkey and the U.S. announced that they would resume processing visa applications in both countries in a sign of emerging thaw ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim‘s visit to the U.S. this week.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara first said it restarted visa services for the Turkish citizens in limited form, softening its visa policy after a complete suspension that was triggered when a U.S. Consular Staff member was arrested in Istanbul last month.

Turkey and the U.S. suspended issuing non-immigrant visas on Oct. 8 and relations plunged into a diplomatic dispute over the arrest of Metin Topuz, a long-standing employee of the Consulate and a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Istanbul bureau agent.

“We have received initial high-level assurances from the Government of Turkey that there are no additional local employees of our Mission in Turkey under investigation,” the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said in a statement.

“We have also received initial assurances from the Government of Turkey that our local staff will not be detained or arrested for performing their official duties and that Turkish authorities will inform the U.S. government in advance if the Government of Turkey intends to detain or arrest a member of our local staff in the future,” the statement read.

As a condition for an end to the dispute, outgoing Ambassador John Bass last month said in a press statement that Turkey must provide assurances that such arrests would not take place again in the future. The U.S. side pressed for an explanation from Turkish authorities over the arrest, dismissing terrorism-linked charges against Mr. Topuz as politically motivated.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., was quick to follow the suit, announcing that it would match the move. It did not, however, say that there had been any assurances.

Turkey’s detention of several locally employed staff at U.S. diplomatic missions across the country boiled down tense relations into a new level not seen in recent memory.  Turkish prosecutors accused Mr. Topuz of having links to Gulen movement and several fugitive police officers.

The U.S. regards charges as politically-driven.

“We continue to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees of our Mission in Turkey.  We are also concerned about the cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under the state of emergency,” the U.S. Embassy said in the statement.

“U.S. officials will continue to engage with their Turkish counterparts to seek a satisfactory resolution of these cases.”

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