Turkey and US step up for reconciliation on visa, arrest crisis

Turkey and the U.S. have stepped up to resolve the diplomatic crisis and revived dialogue channels over the arrest of a U.S. Consulate staff member and mutual suspension of visas.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had a phone conversation three days after the two NATO allies decided to mutually suspend visas, while a delegation including U.S. Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen will visit Turkey for discussions on topics of dispute between Ankara and Washington.

Two countries agreed to work to resolve the diplomatic row between the countries, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ stated on Oct. 12.

“A decision between the two countries has been made for representatives to come together to work on this issue,” Bozdağ told private broadcaster Habertürk.

The U.S. Embassy on Oct. 8 announced the suspension of some visa processing for Turkish nationals following the arrest of a Turkish employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Ankara.

Bozdağ said Turkish and U.S. diplomats would meet within the next few days.

“The testimony of a U.S. local staff member, a Turkish citizen, was filed to both the police and prosecutors in the presence of a lawyer,” he said, referring to jailed U.S. Consulate staff member Metin Topuz.

“His testimony at the criminal court of peace was also filed in the presence of a lawyer. It’s impossible to do this without a lawyer,” he added.

Bozdağ also said “diplomatic and legal methods” should have been used to resolve the issue instead of “gathering the media to make a statement, saying there is an idea of vengeance here.”

He was apparently referring to remarks last week by departing U.S. Ambassador John Bass suggesting that Topuz’s arrest was motivated by “vengeance rather than justice.”

Metin Topuz was arrested last week over alleged links to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of orchestrating last year’s coup attempt. His arrest sparked a dispute between the NATO allies and suspension of visa services.

Topuz will meet his lawyer on Oct. 13, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said on Oct. 12.

 

Tillerson asked for transparency

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson conveyed to Çavuşoğlu “his profound concern over the detentions of Turkish national employees of our diplomatic mission to Turkey and of several American citizens,” State Deportment Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Oct. 11.

Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Oct. 12 that the U.S. made a proposal for resolution of the problem during a phone conversation between two ministers. “We will evaluate this [proposal] and look into it in detail,” Kalın stated.

The visa suspension disagreement between Ankara and Washington is “not a complicated problem” and “could be solved within a day,” he said.

However, he also criticized the U.S. approach for “connecting the issue of visa suspension to the security of US consulate staff.”

 

Military relations good despite spat: Mattis

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Oct. 11 that the U.S. and Turkish military forces continue to cooperate well together despite the ongoing diplomatic spat.

“We maintain a very close collaboration, very close communication. 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 added.

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