US and Turkey resume processing some visas after spat
Posted November 6, 2017 12:27 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States has resumed visa processing at its embassy in Turkey on a limited basis Monday following a dispute over the treatment of local US staff members.
Turkey reciprocated the move and announced a resumption of limited visa processing at its diplomatic missions in the US via a statement on Twitter.
"The United States has received initial high-level assurances from the government of Turkey that there are no additional local employees of our mission in Turkey under investigation," State Department spokeswomann Heather Nauert said in a written statement announcing the resumption of visa services.
In addition, Nauert said the US had received assurances that local staff at US diplomatic facilities in Turkey "will not be detained or arrested for performing their official duties" and that the Turkish government would inform US officials in advance of any plans to detain or arrest local staff going forward.
Both the US and Turkey had suspended all non-immigrant visa services for travel between the two countries last month following the arrest of a US Consulate employee in Istanbul, who the Turkish government said was linked to an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania the Turkish government believes was behind a failed coup attempt last year.
Relations between the US and Turkey, a member of NATO that also plays host to a strategic air base close to the borders with Syria and Iraq, have been strained over the US refusal to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.
With some exceptions, the move had effectively blocked Turkish citizens from travel to the US and vice versa, on an indefinite basis.
Based on the assurances from the Turkish government, the State Department "believes the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services" in Turkey, Nauert said in the statement.
The Turkish Embassy in Washington tweeted soon after the American statement was released that the Turkish government would begin to process visa applications of US citizens on a "limited basis" as well.
"We continue to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees of our mission in Turkey," Nauert also said in her statement. "US officials will continue to engage with their Turkish counterparts to seek a satisfactory resolution of these cases."