Ankara has refuted a claim by the U.S. of high-level assurance safeguarding the local employees at its missions in Turkey from further investigations, citing that the country's judiciary functioned under the principles of a "state of law." Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım confirmed the development before heading to Washington, D.C. for a state visit. Yıldırım pointed out the U.S.'s decision to resume visa processing on a limited basis at its missions in Turkey as a positive step towards solving the ongoing visa spat, but rejected claims of alleged assurance for local employees at U.S. missions.
"Our embassy [in Washington] issued a self-explanatory statement in response to the U.S. Embassy's statement. Both countries are states of law. Therefore, providing or negotiating such assurances would not comply with our principles," he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a statement Monday claiming it has received initial high-level assurances from Turkish officials that no additional local employees at U.S. missions were under investigation.
The Turkish Embassy in Washington immediately denied such claims, saying, "Turkey is a state of law and our government cannot provide any assurances regarding files that are subjects of ongoing legal processes."
"No foreign mission employee has been subjected to legal investigation for performing their official duties in Turkey. The employee in question employed by the U.S. has been the subject of a judicial process not because of his official duties, but due to very serious charges against him," the embassy said, referring to Metin Topuz, a longstanding U.S. consulate employee and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent at the Istanbul bureau, who was arrested over his alleged ties to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
"On the other hand, at the meeting held in Ankara on Oct. 18 with the participation of Turkish and U.S. officials, the two sides agreed on enhancing information sharing on a mutual basis concerning judicial matters and consular cooperation," it added.
The visa crisis arose when Washington announced the suspension of non-immigrant visa services at its mission in Turkey following Topuz's arrest. Ankara then suspended visa services with the U.S. in retaliation.
To find a solution, a U.S. delegation, headed by U.S. State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen, visited Turkey and discussed the issues with a Turkish delegation, headed by Foreign Minist
ry Undersecretary Ahmet Muhtar Gün, last month. Both sides said progress had been made regarding the issue at the meeting.
On Monday, the U.S. resumed processing visas at its missions in Turkey on a limited basis, which was followed by a similar decision by Turkish missions in the U.S.
The prime minister also reiterated Ankara's expectation that the U.S. would extradite Fetullah Gülen, the leader of FETÖ, who has been living in self-imposed exile on a 400-acre property in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania since 1999.
"We have done everything needed for Gülen's extradition. We have serious evidence proving that Fetullah Gülen was behind the coup attempt. If he is not extradited despite the overwhelming evidence, it will lead us to think that there is something more behind this case," he said.
Yıldırım arrived yesterday in the U.S. where he will be until Nov. 11. He will be holding bilateral meetings in order to find a solution to a number of current issues and increase cooperation between the two countries.
In his first visit to the country as prime minister, Yıldırım will hold bilateral talks with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss issues like regional developments, the refugee issues, the recent visa crisis, and the fight against terrorism, with particular focus on FETÖ, Daesh and the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD).
He is being accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak. Yıldırım will also get together with opinion leaders and representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities in New York and Washington.
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