US resumes visa issuance in Turkey on limited basis

Washington and Ankara, two NATO allies at odds, mutually suspended non-immigrant visas after last month's arrest by Turkish police of a US consulate employee in Istanbul.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The United States embassy in Ankara said on Monday that American diplomatic posts resumed issuing visas "on a limited basis" for Turkish nationals, almost a month after a full, mutual suspension of non-immigrant visa services between the two countries with strained ties.

“The US Mission in Turkey has resumed processing visas on a limited basis. Applicants who wish to travel to the United States may now reschedule appointments," the embassy said in an email to private travel agencies.

"Please note, however, that limited appointment availability could result in longer than normal wait times,” it warned.

Resumption of visas to the Turks comes as Prime Minister Binali Yildirim prepares for a three-day trip to the US starting Tuesday. He is set to meet Vice President Mike Pence.

Early in October, a statement by the embassy in Ankara said the “recent events forced” the Donald Trump administration to reassess the commitment of the Turkish government to the security of the US facilities and personnel.

A suspension of all non-immigrant visas in the American embassy in Ankara and consulates in Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana was put in place effective immediately.

Hours later, the Turkish embassy in Washington reacted with an almost identical statement, declaring its halt of visas to Americans who usually get one upon arrival in Turkey.

The confrontation between Washington and Ankara, two NATO allies at odds, stemmed from last month's arrest by Turkish police of a US consulate employee in Istanbul.

Authorities arrested the man, a Turkey national identified only by the initials M.T., late Wednesday on charges of “espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey’s government.”

M.T. was charged with alleged links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for last year’s military coup attempt against his rule.

The US embassy in Ankara condemned the arrest saying it was “deeply disturbed,” dismissing the allegations as “wholly without merit.”

Erdogan has repeatedly demanded from Washington to extradite Gulen and even suggested a prisoner swap for the US to secure the freedom of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, held in Turkey for a year without a trial.

“It appears that leaked information from Turkish government sources was aimed at trying him in the media rather than a court of law,” the embassy added.

Tensions between the two governments have already been steadily increasing since 2014 over Washington’s support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) battling the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

In addition, it is not the first time Turkey has arrested a US consulate employee.

In February, police detained translator Hamza Ulucay of the US consulate in Adana, over alleged membership in the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group leading a Kurdish rebellion against the Turkish state.

An attack on peaceful Kurdish-American protestors last May by Erdogan’s security detail in Washington worsened the relations between the two sides, as DC authorities continue to seek the arrest of 15 of the Turkish President’s bodyguards.


Editing by Sam A.