US embassy announces full return of visa services in Turkey
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the full return of visa services in Turkey via its social media account Thursday, ending the so-called visa crisis between the two countries. Based on several assurances given by Ankara, "the Department of State is confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow the full resumption of visa services in Turkey," the U.S. embassy statement said.
As Turkish Daily Sabah writes in the article US embassy announces full return of visa services in Turkey, according to the embassy, Ankara assured the U.S. embassy that there were no additional local employees under investigation, that the local staff will not be detained or arrested for performing their official duties and that Turkish authorities will inform the U.S. government in advance if any local staff face detention.
The Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C., in turn, also announced lifting of restrictions on visa services, adding that it welcomed the U.S.' decision. The embassy stressed, however, that the Turkish government has given no assurances to Washington, refuting the U.S. embassy's earlier claim. "We find it wrong to misinform the Turkish and the American public by claiming that the U.S. received assurances from Turkey," the statement said. It also said Turkey was seriously concerned about legal cases in the U.S. involving Turkish citizens.
Following the announcement the U.S. dollar fell sharply from 3.82 to 3.77 against the Turkish lira.
The move comes despite the embassy's earlier statement saying visa appointments will only be fully available from January 2019.
The two NATO allies mutually suspended visa services at their diplomatic mission in October after U.S. Consulate employee Metin Topuz was arrested after Turkish authorities charged him with links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group behind last year's defeated coup attempt in Turkey.
Topuz, a longtime U.S. Consulate employee working as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer at the Istanbul Bureau, was arrested after prosecutors discovered alleged close contact with dozens of former police chiefs and officers jailed for links to FETÖ.
Topuz has been linked to a number of FETÖ suspects, including police commissioners and former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, a fugitive accused of attempting to overthrow the government through the use of force, according to a judicial source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
FETÖ is blamed for the July 15, 2016, coup attempt that killed 249 people across Turkey.