The US will reinstate full visa services for Turkish nationals, ending a suspension that lasted more than two months and highlighted strained relations between the two countries, the US diplomatic mission to Turkey has confirmed.
Based on assurances from Turkey’s government, the US said it was “confident” that security had improved enough to warrant the “full resumption” of visa services at its embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and US consulates in the country.
“The Department of State is confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey,” the US mission said in a statement on Thursday.
Later on Thursday, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, which had also blocked some visa services for US nationals, said it “welcome[d] the decision” by the US and would end its own visa restrictions.
“In accordance with the principle of reciprocity, restrictions on visa services applied to American citizens have been lifted simultaneously,” the Turkish embassy said in a statement.
The US suspended the issuance of non-immigrant visas for Turkish nationals in early October, after Turkey arrested a local staff member at the US consulate in Istanbul for allegedly having ties to Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey has blamed Gulen, a US-based Muslim leader, of being behind a failed coup attempt last year, an accusation that Gulen has vehemently denied.
Non-immigrant visas include student, tourist, media and work visas.
Turkey reciprocated the measure shortly thereafter, blocking non-immigrant visa services for US citizens.
In November, the US and Turkish diplomatic missions said they would each resume non-immigrant visa services “on a limited basis”, the first sign that strained relations between the two countries were slowly warming.
On Thursday, the US mission to Turkey said the Turkish government had followed through on its “high-level assurances” that no additional US employees in Turkey were under investigation.
— U.S. Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) December 28, 2017
Turkey had also promised “that local staff of our embassy and consulates will not be detained or arrested for performing their official duties” and that it would inform the US in advance if it intends to detain or arrest any local staff members, the US embassy statement reads.
The Turkish embassy in Washington said, however, that it had not offered any assurances to the US over its detained staff.
“Regarding the assurances expressed in the US statement, we would like to emphasise that Turkey is a state of law, and that our government has not provided any assurances concerning the ongoing judicial processes,” the Turkish embassy’s statement read.
Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, DC, said: “the US government would not have decided to resume full visa operations at its facilities inside Turkey if it did not have these guarantees”.
She said the visa suspensions came “against the larger backdrop [of] … tensions between Washington and Ankara” and several contentious issues remain unresolved between the two countries.
The Turkish government wants the US to extradite Gulen to Turkey, for his alleged involvement in the failed coup.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been a staunch critic of a recent US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Just the resumption of visa services alone isn’t going to be enough to make things 100 percent OK between the two governments,” our correspondent said.