Visa row with US likely to be resolved soon
A visa suspension between Turkey and Washington is "overblown" and will likely be soon resolved, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek said Wednesday.
"This is a temporary undesired dispute and it has no political interference," Şimşek said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington during his visit to attend the the World Bank and IMF annual meetings. "We hope that pretty soon this issue will be resolved."
Describing the detention of staff at the U.S. missions as a "routine investigation", Şimşek said security and safety of the U.S. diplomats and employees are Turkey's "top priority".
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey announced Sunday it was suspending the issuance of non-immigrant visas to Turkish nationals following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.
In a retaliatory move, Turkey's Washington Embassy also suspended non-immigrant visa services.
Topuz is suspected to be linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) that Ankara accuses of being behind a defeated coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, according to a judicial source.
"I want to be very clear. We don't want this dispute to last more than a second," Şimşek said, white recalling that Turkey and the U.S. have been allies for more than half a century and the partnership is strong enough for such crisis.
He said Turkey responded in a likewise manner to the U.S. because it is a sovereign nation but his government is committed to deepening the relationship and open to dialogue if there are any concerns about cooperation on judicial affairs.
"Turkey is not doing arbitrary arrests. There are no political hostages," he said. "Give us the benefit of doubt that Turkish judicial system works and is functioning.
"As we go forward, hopefully all of these disputes, all of these disagreements can be resolved," Şimşek said. "I don't see any issue that cannot be resolved. But clearly it requires better understanding, better dialogue and better communication.
"That is what friends expect from each other," he said. "Clearly these expectations on Turkey when we have gone through so much should be considered by our friends, our allies and partners."
Şimşek invited U.S.-based investors and companies to invest in Turkey, stating his country's economy has been developing and will continue to improve its investment plan despite many challenges such as the failed coup attempt and terror attacks.
"Turkey has gone a long way over the last decade-and-a-half but the story is not done. Nothing is going to change that. Eighty plus million Turks have a strong desire to catch up and we are going to catch up," Şimşek noted. "And that means long way to go in terms of growth, in terms of sales, in terms of opportunities."
"We need each other. Economically we cannot ignore each other. The United States is one of the main engines of global economy. The U.S. is the largest economy. But Turkey is also the world's 13th largest economy with a $2.1 trillion GDP and the fifth largest in Europe," he added.
He also thanked U.S. companies that have been operating in Turkey. "We welcome the U.S. business and we are very much appreciated the presence of almost 1,700 businesses in Turkey," he said.