Members of the media work outside the US consulate in Istanbul, Oct 9, 2017. The US had suspended non-immigrant visa services at its diplomatic facilities in Turkey following the arrest of a consulate employee. (NEYRAN ELDEN / AP)
ANKARA – Turkish and US officials decided to meet to work on resolving a diplomatic crisis between the two NATO allies and talks between the two countries' foreign ministers were constructive, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday.
The dispute was triggered by the arrest of local US staff in Turkey, prompting the United States on Sunday to suspend non-immigrant visa services there. Hours later, Ankara issued a similar suspension on visas for US citizens.
The dispute was triggered by the arrest of local US staff in Turkey, prompting the United States on Sunday to suspend non-immigrant visa services there
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday branded the arrested US consulate staffer, Metin Topuz, a spy and said it was Turkey's rights to take steps against "an internal threat."
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and expressed his "profound concern" about the arrests, the US State Department said in a statement.
"Talks between the foreign minister and (US Secretary of State) Tillerson were very constructive. Representatives from both sides decided to meet and work together," Bozdag said in an interview with broadcaster Haberturk.
He also said the arrested US consulate employee had not demanded lawyer access and the US mission could apply to send a lawyer to see him.
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.
Meanwhile, speaking at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia, President Erdogan accused the US ambassador to Turkey of wrecking ties between the NATO allies by suspending the issuing of visas to Turkish citizens at US diplomatic missions following the arrest of Metin Topuz.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a joint news conference after talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, in Belgrade, Serbia, Oct 10, 2017. (DARKO VOJINOVIC / AP)
"How did these spies infiltrate the American consulate? If they didn't infiltrate the American consulate, who put them there?" Erdogan said, speaking alongside the Serbian president.
"No state would allow such spies that pose an internal threat." He was referring to Topuz as well as a second consulate employee whom Turkish authorities say they want to question.
Turkish authorities accuse Topuz of espionage and alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen's movement, which Turkey says was behind last year's failed coup.