Turkish FM, Tillerson speak amid latest crisis

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks with Secretary of State after both sides suspend visas.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

Rex Tillerson and Mevlut Cavusoglu
Rex Tillerson and Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson regarding the reciprocal suspension of visa services, AFP reported.

The telephone conversation was the first talks between the two since the eruption of one of the worst crises between Washington and Ankara in years.

Cavusoglu and Tillerson "discussed the mutual suspensions of visa services", state-run Anadolu news agency reported, without giving further details.

On Sunday, the U.S. mission in Turkey reduced visa services in response to a U.S. mission employee being detained in Turkey last week.

The Turkish mission in Washington subsequently announced a similar move, with both sides saying they needed to reassess each other's commitment to the security of their personnel.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey no longer regarded ambassador John Bass as the U.S. representative to Turkey and would boycott him for the remainder of his tenure, which is to end shortly.

But after two days of acrimonious broadsides from Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier on Wednesday struck a more conciliatory tone.

"We hope that relations between two allies will return to normal in a short time," he said in the Turkish capital, according to AFP.

"At a time when global and regional tensions are escalating, we are not going to leave common sense behind," he added.

The U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul in question was arrested last week on charges of links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric blamed for last year's failed coup.

Gulen currently resides in exile in the United States. He leads a popular movement called Hizmet and split from Erdogan over a corruption scandal in 2013. Erdogan has long accused him of running a parallel state from abroad.

Turkey has pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Gulen over the July 2016 coup, in which more than 240 people were killed.

Turkish officials had expressed hope of a new page in Ankara-Washington relations under President Donald Trump after repeated bickering in the last months of Barack Obama's term.

So far, Erdogan has been careful not to take aim at Trump during the dispute, putting the blame squarely on Bass.

But the State Department said that Bass had been operating with the full authority of the U.S. government. Bass is at the end of his posting and is due to leave Turkey at the weekend.

Washington dismisses claims it was involved in last year's fail coup as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt and has hinted it could have been “staged” by the government.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)