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US delegation visits Turkey amid growing diplomatic tensions

A man walks in front of the American Embassy in Ankara, on October 9, 2017 as the United States and Turkey mutually suspended visa services. (Photo by AFP)

A delegation of senior US officials has traveled to Turkey for talks over a diplomatic spat between the two NATO allies, which has led to a suspension of mutual visa services.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the delegation, led by US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen, had arrived in Ankara on Monday.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the American team would hold talks with officials from Turkey’s foreign, justice and interior ministries.

“This situation must come to an end as it is not a sustainable situation. It will be in the interest of both countries for the visa crisis not to be extended further,” he added.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen

The dispute began earlier this month after a Turkish employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul was arrested on charges of espionage and alleged ties to US-based Turkish figure Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for masterminding a failed military coup last year.

The US diplomatic mission dismissed the charges and, in response, temporarily stopped issuing visas to Turkish citizens while it assessed Ankara’s commitment to the security of American facilities and personnel.

Within hours, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced a similar halt in visa issuance for US citizens, with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim saying that his country “is not a tribal state, we will retaliate against what has been done in kind.”

“Turkey-American relations have passed very strong tests, but we have never faced such incidents like the visa crisis in any period,” Bozdag said.

Turkey and the US have been at odds over a number of issues, including US support for Kurdish forces operating in northern Syria and Washington’s failure to extradite Gulen.

During the July 15, 2016 botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country. However, over the course of some two days, the coup was suppressed.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected of having played a role in the failed coup.

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