The United States has partially resumed issuing visas in Turkey after receiving what it said were “assurances” about the safety of its staff at its diplomatic missions, following a series of detentions this year.
- Turkey reciprocates the move but says there have been no “assurances”
- Relations fell apart last month after Turkey arrest staff at a US mission
- Ankara says that the fate of said staff will be left to the Turkish legal system
The Turkish embassy in Washington responded almost immediately that it would match the move while calling it a positive development, although Ankara denied US reports that there had been any “assurances”.
The US embassy added however that despite its move, it remained deeply concerned over the detention of two of its locally employed staff at diplomatic missions in Turkey, and the fate of US citizens arrested under a state of emergency in force since a failed coup last year.
The arrest of a veteran employee at the US consulate in Istanbul a month ago led the United States to suspend all non-immigrant visa services while it assessed the security of its staff in Turkey.
Within hours of the US announcement on October 8, Turkey said it was implementing reciprocal measures and President Tayyip Erdogan later angrily accused Washington of sacrificing a longstanding alliance with Ankara.
“We have received initial high-level assurances from the Government of Turkey that there are no additional local employees of our mission in Turkey under investigation,” the US embassy said in a statement overnight.
“We have also received initial assurances from the Government of Turkey that our local staff will not be detained or arrested for performing their official duties.”
Hours later, the Turkish embassy maintained that it had not given the United States any assurances, and said that any decision regarding legal procedures on US mission workers would be left to Turkey’s judicial system.
“The personnel in question employed by the US has been the subject of a judicial process, not because of his official duties, but because of very serious charges against him,” Ankara said in a statement.
It also said a reference to the security conditions of US missions in Turkey in the US embassy’s statement was “odd” and did not reflect the truth.
Turkey has been angered by what it sees as Washington’s reluctance to hand over US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for orchestrating last year’s failed coup.
Mr Gulen — who has denied any involvement in the coup — has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, and US officials have said courts require sufficient evidence to order his extradition.