The visa crisis between the United States and Turkey that started last Sunday is ongoing with a moderation of the countries' stances. The U.S. and Turkey have mutually suspended visa services for travel between them for the first time. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy announced that visa applications in cases of medical and humanitarian emergencies would be kept outside of the scope of the visa services suspension.
Evidently, the two countries have had strained relations for a while. These tensions mainly stem from the fact that Turkey's approach and expectations regarding the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and its leader, Fetullah Gülen, are not compatible with that of the U.S. Accordingly, Ankara believes that this terrorist cult and its leader, which attempted to topple the government in an atrocious coup attempt on July 15, 2016, is protected and to some extent controlled by the U.S. On the other hand, it does not look very promising that the U.S. will extradite the cult leader, and has so far not taken any step to erase Ankara's concerns.
Other incidents such as the arrest warrant issued for several members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's security detail, the arrest of Reza Zarrab and a Halkbank deputy general manager in the U.S. and the arrest warrant issued for former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan also revolve around this main point of crisis.
As a matter of fact, the reason for the visa suspension is also the same. Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee working at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, was arrested on charges of espionage and links to FETÖ. The U.S. objected to the arrest of an employee at their mission and said that Topuz was not allowed to meet with lawyers. But it turned out that the demand to meet a lawyer was made too late and the judiciary did not put any obstacle up in this respect. Moreover, the meeting was held a few days after the demand was issued. Also, Ankara contends that no one can be privileged due to their position at the U.S. Embassy and the judiciary is entitled to consider all charges. Furthermore, Ankara has presented some documents and photos that show that Topuz met with Zekeriya Öz, a fugitive prosecutor accused of attempting to overthrow the government through the use of force and a key FETÖ figure.
In a nutshell, Turkey defends its independent judiciary against the U.S. Washington, on the other hand, is disturbed by Turkish authorities' harsh public statements against the attitude of U.S. American evangelist pastor Andrew Brunson's arrest in Turkey is also another aspect of the same concern. Brunson was arrested for his suspected links to FETÖ. U.S. President Donald Trump reminds President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the pastor every time they meet since the arrest of a religious functionary, which represents a significant stratum, in an ally country undermines Washington. But the same U.S. administration that attaches importance to this demand refuses to sympathize with Turkey's sensitivity to the issue of Gülen.
Meanwhile, the long-established relations between the two countries cannot be sacrificed to a few specific concerns. Both countries have been exerting the utmost effort to overcome the crisis. A delegation from Washington paid a visit to Turkey Monday to end the visa suspension crisis and discuss several other topics. A statement issued by the White House last week put an emphasis on the importance of relations while NATO wants relations to normalize as soon as possible. Erdoğan, meanwhile, tries to keep the issue at a diplomatic level so as not to escalate the crisis.
Of course, the point where the two counties have ended up is critical. It can be said that this has been the most profound crisis experienced so far, but it must be noted that Syria and Iraq are on the brink of serious disruption. In Kirkuk, the Iraqi military advanced to capture Kirkuk from Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces. Turkey and Russia have been involved in a joint operation in Idlib as protecting powers. Although the U.S. argues that the Middle East is no longer its priority, it still needs Turkey in this period since the country is the leading U.S. ally in the region. Therefore, the U.S. cannot afford to lose Turkey. Correspondingly, it can be presumed that the crisis will gradually be resolved and their alliance will continue despite the problems.
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