US delegation to visit Turkey on Oct 16 in bid to resolve disagreements
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
A delegation from the U.S. chaired by Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen will visit Turkey on Oct. 16 as part of efforts to resolve the ongoing diplomatic crisis disagreements between the two countries.
The idea of discussions between Turkish and U.S. officials on regional developments and bilateral ties was actually set during a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump at their last meeting, an official in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The visit was therefore planned before the latest spat between Turkey and the U.S. over the former’s arrest of U.S. Consulate staff in Istanbul, the official added.
Washington hopes that tension between the U.S. and Turkey will be defused, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said late on Oct. 12.
“We hope that Turkey is not trying to create some distance between us,” Nauert told reporters in a daily press briefing.
She said the Turkish government was asked for evidence after the arrest of two local staff at U.S. missions in Turkey and stressed the importance that they be able to see their lawyers.
“We would hope for some calm and that we can have a dialogue with the government of Turkey. But we also have some very real concerns about whether or not Turkey intends to cooperate with the United States and in terms of its investigations,” Nauert said.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey announced on Oct. 8 that it was suspending the issuance of non-immigrant visas to Turkish nationals in the country following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. In a retaliatory move, Turkey’s U.S. Embassy also suspended non-immigrant visa services.
Topuz met with his lawyers on Oct. 13 at a prison on the outskirts of Istanbul.
Lawyers Selman Alibaş and Halit Akalp met with their client at Istanbul’s Silivri prison in a meeting that lasted around two hours. Following their meeting with Topuz, Akalp told reporters that they had not faced any restriction regarding the meeting with their client.
“Any kind of restriction on this issue is out of the question. The meeting conditions are already obvious within the framework of legal rules and we held our meeting. We had also met with our client during the detention period within the framework of legal conditions. We do not have any problem on this matter and we held a very convenient meeting,” Akalp said.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office, meanwhile, said Topuz met his lawyers on Sept. 30, Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, prior to the latest meeting.
The visa issue is just the latest bilateral disagreement between the two capitals. Other problematic areas include U.S. support to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the ongoing case against Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab for conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Turkey’s former Economic Minister Zafer Çağlayan and former Halkbank general manager Süleyman Aslan are also arrested in connection to the Zarrab case and Erdoğan has reportedly been pressing for Zarrab’s release since before the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. After his most recent meeting with Trump, the Turkish president announced that the issue was the top of his agenda during the meeting.
Ankara has also been demanding the extradition of Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of masterminding the failed July 2016 coup attempt.
Turkey’s recent engagement with Iran and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Ankara have also raised eyebrows in Washington, along with the government’s recent decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
For Washington, the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, arrested in Turkey since last year, is still high on the bilateral agenda, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising the issue during a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Oct. 11.