US delegation to discuss visa crisis, Syria, security with Turkish officials

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Turkish and U.S. delegations are set to meet in Ankara as part of efforts to overcome a crisis arisen from the mutual suspension of visa applications.

The U.S. delegation, chaired by Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen, will hold meetings with the Turkish Deputy Undersecretary Ahmet Muhtar Gün at the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Oct. 17 in a bid to find a solution to the visa crisis that was triggered by the arrest of a U.S. Consulate employee in Turkey.

The discussions will also cover Syria and other security issues at a preplanned annual meeting on Oct. 18.

The idea of discussions between Turkish and U.S. officials on regional developments and bilateral ties was actually set during a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump at their last meeting.

“I am not the determining one,” Cohen told reporters after arriving at Ankara Esenboğa Airport on Oct. 16, when asked about the agenda of his meeting.

The visit was planned before this latest spat between Turkey and the U.S.

But the two sides have agreed to include discussions over the visa crisis at the Foreign Ministry in a bid to resolve the strained relations.

The diplomatic dispute flared up after the U.S. Embassy in Turkey announced on Oct. 8 that it was suspending the issuance of non-immigrant visas to Turkish nationals in the country following the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, over his suspected links to Fetullah Gülen. In a retaliatory move, the Turkish Embassy in the U.S. also suspended non-immigrant visa services.

The visa issue is just the latest bilateral disagreement between the two capitals. Other problematic areas include U.S. support to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and an ongoing case against Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab for conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

For Washington, the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, arrested in Turkey since last year, is still high on the bilateral agenda, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising the issue during a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Oct. 11.

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