US envoy answers Twitter visa queries in Turkish

US envoy answers Twitter visa queries in Turkish

ISTANBUL - Hurriyet
US envoy answers Twitter visa queries in Turkish

Ambassador Ricciardone

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone corrected a recent statement about Turkey's inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program during a Q&A answer on the microblogging website Twitter, noting that traveling to the United States visa-free had very strict rules, Hurriyet reported.

Tweeting previously from the U.S. State Department's new Turkish-language Twitter account, @ABDTurk, Ricciardone had said Turkey "was advancing in becoming eligible for the Visa Waiver Program" which allows residents of a country to travel to the U.S. without a visa.

Correcting his remarks, Ricciardone said he had not explained the topic properly due to the limited time and nature of Twitter.

"We encourage all Turkish citizens to travel to the United States for business, education, exchange programs or medical reasons. Getting a travel visa to U.S is easier than what most people expect. The Visa Waiver Programm has rules and strict criteria," Ricciardone said.

"Turkey is advancing toward Visa Waiver," the ambassador told his followers. "But honestly, I don't think it'll be in the near future. I wouldn't want to mislead anyone."

Ricciardone further answered questions directed to him through Twitter, in Turkish.

One follower asked the ambassador whether or not the United States would reconsider selling arms to Turkey after the Uludere raid that left 34 villagers dead.

"We support Turkey with all its diversity. Our stance is clear," Ricciardone said. "We are against violence. We believe that all can be sorted out through dialogues."

The issue of Turkey declining to follow U.S-led sanctions of Iran was also directed at him. Ricciardone said that even though there were occasionally differences in points of view, Turkey and the United States had the same strategic outlook.

"How can we convince Iran?" Ricciardone tweeted. "Nobody wants to take the military option. We are using diplomatic means. It's all on the table now."

The ambassador declined to comment in depth on the issue of jailed journalists due to his duties in Turkey but stated that the U.S. was a supporter of freedom of the press in Turkey, as anywhere else in the world.

He further touched upon the issue of Armenian genocide claims and said he did not know whether or not President Barack Obama would use the word “genocide” in the future.

"Communication is needed," Ricciardone tweeted. "The historians of both sides need to meet."

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