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US to Resume Full Visa Services in Turkey


FILE - People wait in front of the visa application office entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 9, 2017.

The United States announced Thursday that full visa services for Turkish citizens wishing to travel to the U.S. will resume and said it received assurances Ankara would inform Washington before moving to detain or arrest any embassy employees.

Turkey welcomed the decision on visas, but said that it had not provided the U.S. any such assurances.

The U.S. suspended all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey earlier this year, in response to the arrest of Metin Topuz, a consulate employee in Istanbul, on terrorism charges. Turkey shut down visa services in the U.S. in retaliation.

In a statement released Thursday, the State Department said that since October, Turkey had adhered to promises that no local employees of the embassy were being investigated, that no employees would be detained for "performing their official duties", and that the government of Turkey would consult with the U.S. before detaining or arresting local staff in the future.

"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 statement read.

Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic said his country plans to do the same for U.S. citizens seeking visas to Turkey. The Turkish statement, however, denied that Ankara gave any assurances to the U.S. regarding potential detentions and arrests of embassy employees.

"In terms of assurances mentioned in U.S. statement, we would like to reiterate that there is rule of law in Turkey and our government did not give any assurances related to ongoing cases, and no local mission employee is under legal investigation regarding to their official duties," his statement read. "Even though we have drawn attention to the matter, we do not approve United States informing Turkish and American public falsely by alleging that Turkey have given them assurances"

The two nations resumed limited visa services in early November, around the time of a visit to Washington by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, but the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced last week that the earliest appointments for applications are in January 2019, more than a year from now.

Nike Ching contributed to this report from the State Department, and VOA Turkish.