US, Turkey settle visa row
Turkey's main financial district, behind a residential neighbourhood in Istanbul (Reuters)
The United States and Turkey lifted all visa restrictions on Thursday after Washington said Ankara had kept to assurances that no other US mission staff would be targeted for performing official duties.
But Turkey swiftly denied having granted such assurances in the affair that has tested relations since two local employees of the US consulate in Istanbul were held on suspicion of ties to last year's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The United States suspended visa services at its missions in Turkey in October and Turkey reciprocated. In November, Washington said it was resuming limited services upon getting assurances on the safety of its local staff.
"Based on adherence to these assurances, 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 Embassy in Ankara said on Thursday.
It said that Washington continued to have concerns about the two employees detained.
Statement from the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, DC, December 28, 2017 pic.twitter.com/spudhuVgmb
— TurkishEmbassyDC (@TurkishEmbassy) December 28, 2017
Turkey, while announcing the end of restrictions on visas to US citizens, took issue with the US declaration.
"We do not find it right for the United States to claim it had received assurances from Turkey and misinform the US and Turkish publics," the Turkish Embassy in Washington said in a statement.
Turkey's lira firmed to 3.78 against the US dollar after the statement, its highest level since 31 October, and the main share index BIST100 climbed 2.08 percent to reach its highest closing level ever.
Relations between the two NATO allies have become strained in the last year with Turkey angered by what it sees as US reluctance to hand over Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for the coup attempt in July of 2016.
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Turkey was further angered by US military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK, which has waged an insurgency for three decades in southeast Turkey.
Turkey also took a leading role in the United Nations to pass a resolution denouncing a US move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
More recently, an ongoing US trial involving a Turkish bank executive accused of helping Iran evade sanctions has irked Turkish officials.
Erdogan, who has been accused by witnesses in the case of being involved in the scheme, has slammed the trial, calling it a “clear plot” by Gulen.