Yildirim heads to US as tensions over visa dispute ease

Trip comes a day after two sides partially resumed issuing visas in each other’s capital in a step to solve crisis.

Turkey''s Transport Minister Yildirim speaks before a signing ceremony in Istanbul
Yildirim will land in Washington on Tuesday and is scheduled to meet Mike Pence, US vice president [Reuters]

The Turkish prime minister will visit the United States, one day after Ankara and Washington resumed issuing visas to each other’s citizens on a “limited basis”.

Binali Yildirim’s trip is a further sign that the ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two allies is easing.

Yildirim is expected to land in Washington, DC, on Tuesday and is scheduled to meet Mike Pence, US vice president, shortly after his arrival.

They are set to discuss the visa dispute, which was triggered by the arrest of a US embassy employee last month, and the extradition of Fethullah Gulen – a US-based self-exiled religious leader accused by Ankara of orchestrating the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey.


“The limited reissuing of visas between the United States and Turkey … can be seen as a positive development,” Yildirim said before he left the Turkish capital.

‘This is important’

Kani Torun, a senior MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), told Al Jazeera that the talks are expected to focus on mending ties between the two allies.

“The prime minister is taking a large legal team with him in order to strengthen the case for Gulen’s extradition during his visit,” said Torun, who is also the deputy chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

“However, the main topic of this visit will be improving the mutual relations between the two allies. It is not possible for the two countries to sustain this sort of tension for a long time. The relations will have to be normalised,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The prime minister has not publicly spoken much about the dispute with the US since the beginning of it. This is important.”

Last month, Washington cancelled visa appointments of Turks amid concerns over “the security of the US mission and personnel”.

The move was in response to Turkey’s detention of a Turkish citizen working for the US consulate in Istanbul.

Ankara reciprocated by freezing e-visas and visas on arrival for US citizens hours later the same day.

Resumption of visas

Late on Monday, the US embassy in Turkey announced the “limited” resumption of non-immigrant visas for Turkish nationals, adding that Washington received assurances that there were no additional local employees of the mission under investigation.

According to the statement, Ankara assured the US that no local embassy staff would be detained or arrested for performing their official duties.

Shortly after, the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, said that it was also resuming issuing visas to US citizens “on a limited basis”, but refuted the US claim that Ankara gave such assurances.

“Turkey is a state of law and our government cannot provide any assurances regarding files that are subject of ongoing processes,” the Turkish embassy said.

The statement also said that the embassy personnel in question was investigated “not because of his official duties, but because of very serious charges against him”.

Source: Al Jazeera