Woman waits at US embassy in Ankara. PHOTO: Reuters
Turkish and US authorities decided to meet to settle the strategic emergency between the two NATO partners, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday.
The spat erupted last week when Turkey arrested a Turkish employee of the American consulate on suspicion of links to the group blamed for last year’s failed coup.
In response, the United States suspend non-immigrant visa services there. Hours later, Ankara issued a similar suspension on visas for US citizens in a tit-for-tat move.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by telephone with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday to discuss the reciprocal suspension of visa services — their first talks since the eruption of one of the worst crises between Washington and Ankara in years. Tillerson expressed his “profound concern” about the arrests, the US State Department said in a statement.
“Talks between the foreign minister and (US Secretary of State) Tillerson were very constructive. Representatives from both sides decided to meet and work together,” Bozdag said in an interview with broadcaster Haberturk.
He also said a US consulate employee arrested in Turkey had not demanded lawyer access and the US mission could apply to send a lawyer to see him.
During the conversation, Tillerson said Turkey needed to present evidence for the accusations against the consulate employee, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that US and Turkish military forces continue to work well together amid the diplomatic row.
“We maintain a very close collaboration, very close communication, the military-to-military interaction and integration has not been affected by this,” Mattis told reporters as he traveled to a military headquarters in Florida.
“We are doing good work with them, military to military,” he stressed.
On Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said the spat had not affected NATO or US military ties with Turkey.
The United States relies heavily on an air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey to launch air strikes against the ISIS group in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Yet, US-Turkish relations have been strained over US military support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and the United States’ unwillingness to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally whom Ankara views as the mastermind behind last year’s failed military coup.