US delegation arrives in Ankara to discuss diplomatic row

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ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 16: The U.S. mission, led by Jonathan Cohen (R), deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the US State Department, leave the Esenboga International Airport after their plane landed in Ankara, Turkey on October 16, 2017. AFP

A US diplomatic delegation arrived in Ankara on Monday in a bid to resolve a diplomatic crisis between the two countries over a mutual suspension of visa issuance following the arrest of a US Consulate staff member, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.

The US delegation is led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen, and will hold talks with the Turkish side led by by Deputy Undersecretary of Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Muhtar Gün.

The American delegation is expected to discuss with the Turkish government a solution to the visa suspension dispute and the legal protection of personnel at US diplomatic missions in Turkey.

Departing US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass reportedly discussed the issues with Deputy Undersecretary Gün, according to Anadolu.

Bass has been named ambassador to Afghanistan; until a new ambassador is appointed, Deputy Chief of Mission Philip Kosnett will serve as chargé d’affaires.

İstanbul Consulate General staff member Metin Topuz was arrested on Oct. 4 on espionage charges and alleged links to some leading members of the faith-based Gülen movement.

Speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul on Sept. 6, Ambassador Bass said some in the Turkish government were motivated by “vengeance rather than justice,” voicing concern at coverage in pro-government media outlets of the arrest of Topuz.

The US Embassy in Ankara last Sunday announced that it had suspended all non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic missions in Turkey.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had waited for three days before calling his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in response to a message sent last Sunday by Çavuşoğlu regarding the visa crisis.

US. Ambassador Bass said in a video message released late Monday that Turkish authorities had failed to show any evidence against Topuz and that he had insufficient access to a lawyer. He also said the arrest “raised questions whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation between Turkey and the US.”

Ties between the two NATO allies were already strained over Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s presence in the US and Washington’s support for a Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey considers to be terrorist because of its links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants fighting Turkey.

Also, indictments in the US naming bodyguards of Erdoğan who were engaged in violence in Washington and for the manager of the state-run Halkbank and a former Turkish economy minister accused of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran had deepened the rift.

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