Turkey expects visa spat with US to be ‘resolved soon’

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A diplomatic crisis between the United States and Turkey that led them to stop issuing visas to each other’s citizens is “overblown” and will likely be resolved soon, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Wednesday.

In remarks apparently aimed at defusing tensions between the two countries, Simsek told an event in Washington that Turkey considered the safety and security of US diplomats and employees in Turkey a “top priority” and described the detention of staff at US missions in Turkey as “routine” investigations.

Tensions between the two NATO allies rose in recent days after the detentions of two locally employed staff prompted the United States on Sunday to suspend non-immigrant visa services at its embassy and consulates in Turkey. Hours later, Turkey issued a similar suspension on visas for US citizens.

US-Turkish relations were already strained over US military support for Kurdish fighters in Syria and the United States’ unwillingness to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally whom Ankara views as the mastermind behind last year’s failed military coup.

“We don’t want this dispute to last more than a second,” Simsek said of the current visa spat at a briefing on US business opportunities in Turkey at the US Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. He added that Turkey is committed to “safeguarding” US government employees in Turkey.

Simsek’s remarks contrasted with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on Tuesday that “agents” had infiltrated US missions in Turkey and that Ankara no longer recognized US Ambassador John Bass as a legitimate envoy.

Bass told reporters on Wednesday the US government had still not received any official explanation from the Turkish government for why the employees were arrested in Turkey this year.

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