Turkish, US foreign ministers discuss visa dispute in phone talks


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on the phone with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson on Wednesday to discuss mutual visa suspension issue, a Turkish foreign ministry source said.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, Turkish foreign ministry sources said, amid a dispute between the two NATO allies over visa dispute, which was erupted after the detention of a U.S. consulate worker who is accused of his FETO links.

Turkey's top diplomat and his American counterpart on Wednesday discussed the reciprocal suspension of visa services, in their first talks since the U.S. Embassy in Turkey on Sunday announced the suspension of non-immigration visas for Turkish nationals following the arrest of a Turkish employee at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

In a retaliatory move, Turkey's Washington Embassy also suspended non-immigrant visa services, saying, "Recent events have forced Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the United States to the security of Turkish Mission facilities and personnel."

Later, another foreign ministry source said Ahmet Muhtar Gun, deputy undersecretary at the ministry, met with the outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Bass at the ministry's headquarters.

The meeting aimed to overcome the visa dispute between the two countries, said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.

Bass announced the visa suspension and issued a video Monday discussing his decision. The State Department said that Bass had been operating with the full authority of the US government. Bass is at the end of his posting and is due to leave Turkey at the weekend.

Erdoğan on Tuesday stepped up one of the worst rows in decades between the two NATO allies by saying Turkey no longer regarded ambassador John Bass as the US representative in the country.

"I personally find it odd that high-level U.S. officials did not conduct any means of communication with our foreign minister. It is concerning for an Ankara ambassador to take such a decision then claim he took it 'in the name of my country'," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday.

Erdoğan warned that Turkish-U.S. ties could be further damaged if U.S. President Donald Trump's administration played a role in the visa decision.

If the decision was made after discussion with senior officials, "then we have nothing to discuss with the administration", he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier on Wednesday struck a conciliatory tone.

"We hope that relations between two allies will return to normal in a short time," he said in the Turkish capital.

"At a time when global and regional tensions are escalating, we are not going to leave common sense behind," he added.

Ties have frayed in recent months over the refusal of the US to extradite Gulen, and its support for Kurdish militias in Syria.

Ankara accuses FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen of orchestrating the attempted coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

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