US Missions in Turkey set to Resume Full Visa Services

The United States Embassy in Ankara has been a flashpoint for a visa row with Turkey
AFP

(AFP) — US consular missions in Turkey are set to resume full visa services following a suspension triggered by the arrest of a staff member, the American embassy in Ankara said Thursday, leading Turkey to announce it will also resume full services.

Turkey had “adhered to high level assurances” made to the United States and, as a result, the US State Department “is confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey,” the embassy said in a statement.

It did not give a date for when this would take effect.

Shortly after the US announcement, Ankara’s embassy in Washington announced that Turkish missions in the United States will also resume full visa services for US citizens matching the American move.

“Within the framework of the principle of reciprocity, the restrictions placed from our side on the visa regime for US citizens are being lifted simultaneously,” it said in a statement.

The US decision to stop handing out visas was implemented from October and was followed by the tit-for-tat move by Turkey to stop giving Turkish visas to Americans.

The US in November said it has resumed limited visa services, a move matched by Turkey’s missions in the US.

But the services were so limited that the first interview appointments for Turks seeking most types of US visa were only available from January 2019, causing uproar on social media.

The crisis was triggered when US consulate staffer Metin Topuz was formally charged with espionage and seeking to overthrow the Turkish government last month, accusations the US embassy in Ankara said at the time were “wholly without merit.”

US authorities then sought assurances from top Turkish officials that no further staff members would be placed under investigation.

The US said it had won assurances from Ankara that there are “no additional local employees of our mission in Turkey under investigation.”

But the Turkish embassy statement took issue with this, saying that “Turkey is a state of law” and “no such assurances have been given regarding cases pending in the courts.”

“We do not find it right to misinform the Turkish and American publics by saying that assurances have been given,” it said.

Turkish authorities will also inform the US “in advance” if they intend to arrest any local staff member in the future.

The US statement added: “We continue to have serious concerns about the existing allegations against arrested local employees of our mission in Turkey.”

In March, a Turkish employee at the US consulate in the southern city of Adana was also arrested on charges of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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