Turkey, US end months-long visa row
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the Turkish Embassy in Washington issued separate statements on their Twitter accounts announcing the end of visa restrictions that were in place since early November. The U.S. visa imposition began after Turkey arrested Metin Topuz, a local employee working as a liaison of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, over terrorism charges and alleged links to the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
“Since October, the Government of Turkey has adhered to the high-level assurances it provided to the United States that there are no additional local employees of our Mission in Turkey under investigation, that local staff of our Embassy and consulates will not be detained or arrested for performing their officials duties – including communicating with Turkish officials also working in an official capacity – and that Turkish authorities will inform the U.S. government in advance if the Government of Turkey intends to detain or arrest any member of our local staff in the future,” read the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
It announced that the Department of State is confident that “the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey”.
“We continue to have serious concerns about the existing allegations against arrested local employees of our Mission in Turkey. We are also concerned about cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under the state of emergency. U.S. officials will continue to engage with their Turkish counterparts to seek a satisfactory resolution of these cases,” it added.
The Turkish Embassy in Washington said Turkey also lifted visa restrictions on American nationals and welcomed the move, however, it denied that the Turkish government issued any assurances on ongoing legal cases in Turkey.
“In regards to assurances cited in the U.S. statement, we would like to emphasize that Turkey respects the rule of law, that our government has not adhered to any assurances on ongoing legal cases,” the embassy’s statement read.
It also accused the U.S. of misinforming both the Turkish and American public “by claiming that it received assurances on mentioned cases.”
The statement also cited ongoing cases in the U.S. in which Turkish nationals have been tried, without naming it but referring to Hakan Atilla, a former Turkish banking executive charged with evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.
T.C. Vaşington Büyükelçiliği Açıklaması, 28 Aralık 2017 pic.twitter.com/tBe9xHfrbQ— TurkishEmbassyDC (@TurkishEmbassy) 28 Aralık 2017
According to Turkish diplomatic sources, there were two main diplomatic channels between Turkey and U.S. for resolving the visa stalemate. The main mechanism was between Turkish and American foreign ministers, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Rex Tillerson, who held two meetings in early December in Brussels on the margins of NATO meeting. In addition, both sides’ technocrats that includes diplomats and legal experts have also bene in close contacts for the resolution of the problem to the interest of both sides.
Due to the U.S. decision to slow down visa proceedings for the Turkish applicants a heavy backlog recently developed and the earliest appointment was scheduled to January 2019.
A U.S. official had told the Hürriyet Daily News that they were aware of the inconvenience, saying “We know that. This is not meant to be the new normal. When the two governments are engaged very energetically in discussions about the visa situation and related security issues, we hope to resolve and return to normal visa processing by both countries. Because as you know, the Turkish government is also limiting visa processing for American citizens.”