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US and Turkey lift reciprocal visa restrictions

Adem Altan, AFP | File photo of the US Embassy in Ankara

US consular missions in Turkey will resume full visa services following a suspension triggered by the arrest of a staff member, the American embassy in Ankara said Thursday. The Turkish embassy in Washington said it would respond in kind.

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Turkey had “adhered to high level assurances” made to the United States and, as a result, the US State Department “is confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey", the American embassy said in a statement.

It did not give a date for when this would take effect.

“Within the framework of the principle of reciprocity, the restrictions placed from our side on the visa regime for US citizens are being lifted simultaneously,” the Turkish embassy in Washington said in a statement following the US announcement.

The US decision to stop handing out visas was implemented in October and was followed by a tit-for-tat move by Turkey to stop giving Turkish visas to Americans.

The US in November said it has resumed limited visa services, a move matched by Turkey’s missions in the US.

But the services were so limited that the first interview appointments for Turks seeking most types of US visa were only available from January 2019, causing uproar on social media.

The crisis was triggered when US consulate staffer Metin Topuz was formally charged with espionage and seeking to overthrow the Turkish government last month, accusations the US embassy in Ankara said at the time were “wholly without merit”.

US authorities then sought assurances from top Turkish officials that no further staff members would be placed under investigation.

The embassy statement said it had now received such assurances that there are “no additional local employees of our mission in Turkey under investigation”.

Turkish authorities will also inform the US “in advance” if they intend to arrest any local staff member in the future.

But the statement added: “We continue to have serious concerns about the existing allegations against arrested local employees of our mission in Turkey."

In March, a Turkish employee at the US consulate in the southern city of Adana was also arrested on charges of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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