Dialogue to end US-Turkey crisis started at its peak
Dialogue between Turkey and the U.S. started a night before work started for a telephone rendezvous between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Oct. 11.
It was on the night of Oct. 10, right after the farewell reception of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass in Ankara. The reception could be considered the peak of the visa crisis between the two countries so far: No one from the government or the bureaucracy attended the reception, and neither did generals or politicians from opposition parties. This was not something ever witnessed before.
President Tayyip Erdoğan had said a few hours before, during a press conference in Belgrade, that he had turned down Ambassador Bass’ request for an appointment to bid farewell. And Erdoğan had the departing ambassador in his crosshairs.
“If this decision [to suspend U.S. visa processes in Turkey] was taken by the ambassador himself, he should be withdrawn immediately by the [Donald Trump] administration. But if the decision was taken by the administration then I have nothing left to talk about with them,” he said.
However, around an hour after the end of Bass’ farewell reception, the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department came out in support of the ambassador, saying the decision was indeed the administration’s.
A diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News that this State Department remark did not play a key role in the dialogue initiative, but it was after this statement that contact was established by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry with the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. On the Turkish side, approval was received from President Erdoğan through Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, who was accompanying him in Belgrade. “There was actually an understanding on both sides that they should find a way out of this friction,” said the diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Erdoğan did not mention the crisis during his remarks in Serbia on Oct. 11 and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım only spoke about the need to “normalize” relations between the two NATO allies.
The crisis could be toned down if lawyers are given access to two Turkish employers of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul who are currently under arrest. They are accused of having links with the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher believed to have masterminded Turkey’s July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
An easing of tension between Turkey and the U.S. could end the acute stage of the crisis. But it is not likely to address the many piled-up problems between the two countries – from the Gülen issue to the rift over Syria and anti-terror policies.