Tuesday November 7, 2017
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Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute student from Iran, is greeted by his sister Bahar at Logan Airport after he cleared US customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston February 3, 2017. — Reuters picBehnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute student from Iran, is greeted by his sister Bahar at Logan Airport after he cleared US customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston February 3, 2017. — Reuters picANKARA, Nov 7 — The United States said yesterday it is resuming limited visa services in Turkey, following an almost month-long suspension in a diplomatic row between the two Nato allies.

“We believe the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services in Turkey,” the US embassy in Ankara said on its website.

The move by the United States comes a day ahead of a trip to Washington by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, during which he is due to hold talks with US Vice President Mike Pence.

The US embassy made the decision last month after one of the Istanbul consulate’s Turkish staffers was arrested, saying it needed to carry out a security assessment.

The employee was charged with links to the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for last year’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The employee remains in jail.

But the embassy said yesterday it had received “initial high-level assurances” from Turkey that “no additional local employees of our mission in Turkey (are) under investigation”.

It added that there were also assurances that local staff would not be “detained or arrested for performing their official duties”.

‘Serious concerns continue’

The decision to stop handing out visas took effect from October 8 and was followed by a tit-for-tat move by Turkey to stop giving Turkish visas to Americans.

Among the several Americans arrested in Turkey is pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in the western city of Izmir. He has been held in Turkey since October 2016 on charges of being a member of Gulen’s group.

The US embassy said Turkish authorities indicated they would inform the US government in advance if they intended to detain or arrest a local employee in the future.

“We continue to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees of our mission in Turkey. We are also concerned about the cases against US citizens who have been arrested under the state of emergency,” the embassy said.

Since last July’s coup bid, over 50,000 people have been arrested accused of links to Gulen and his movement under the state of emergency imposed in July 2016.

The CNN-Turk channel quoted the Turkish foreign ministry as saying that the US decision was positive and could be followed by a similar move from Turkey.

Strained ties

The mutual halt in the issuing of visas had become the most painful symbol of an increasingly troubled relationship between Washington and Ankara.

Turkey has pressed Washington for the extradition of the Pennsylvania-based Gulen, who denies any link to the coup bid.

The lack of movement on the issue has further strained ties already frayed over Washington’s support for a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara considers a terror group.

Ankara is also angry over the arrest in the US of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy chief executive at state lender Halkbank, and the Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab.

Meanwhile, members of Erdogan’s security detail were indicted by US authorities after clashes with protesters during an official White House visit in May, infuriating the Turkish president.

Turkish officials had expressed hope of a new page in Ankara-Washington relations under President Donald Trump and Yildirim’s trip has been billed as the latest attempt to revive ties. — AFP

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