U.S. lifts visa ban against Turkey ahead of key diplomatic meetings

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Washington is reversing course, lifting a ban blocking Turkish citizens from entering the United States, a move praised by Anakra ahead of scheduled senior-level talks between Turkey and the Trump Administration.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey announced it would begin processing visa applications of Turkish nationals. It is the first time embassy officials will begin reviewing such applications since October, when Washington suspended those operations.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim lauded the decision Tuesday, saying the move was a “positive” step toward repairing U.S-Turkish ties, which have become increasingly frayed over the last several months. Mr. Yildirim’s comments came just before departing Ankara for Washington, where he is scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence as well as other top administration officials this week.

State Department officials in Turkey said the visa program was restarted after Washington received assurances that local staff working for the embassy and various consulates in the country would be safe from Turkish prosecution.

One Turkish national working for the U.S. diplomatic mission in the country was arrested, and another was the target of an arrest warrant in October, as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Erdogan regime believes was behind last year’s attempted military coup in the country.

Turkish security services detained Metin Topuz, a Turkish national who was working as liaison officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul. A second unnamed consulate employee of Turkish descent was also targeted for arrest.

The unnamed employee remained in hiding on the grounds of the American consulate, while the individual’s wife and child were placed into custody and reportedly interrogated after their arrest in the northern Turkish city of Amasya.

As a result, U.S. diplomats blocked all Turkish citizens from receiving U.S. visas in October. Turkey quickly followed suit, blocking all American citizens from getting Turkish visas that month.

 



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