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Turkey, US lift suspension of visa services, end months-long row

Turkey and the United States have mutually lifted restrictions on issuing visas, with each providing a different account of the settlement of a months-long diplomatic row that caused the suspension.

The US embassy in Ankara said on Thursday that it had resumed visa services after it received assurances that its staff in Turkey would not be targeted in any prosecution like the two consulate employees who were arrested earlier this year while on duty.

“Based on adherence to these assurances, the Department of State is confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey,” said the embassy in a statement, adding that concerns remained over the fate of the two staffers of the US consulate in Istanbul, who were detained in October over links to a failed coup last year.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities said that restrictions on issuing visas to US citizens had ended, but they denied giving assurances about local employees of US missions in Turkey.

“We do not find it right for the United States to claim it had received assurances from Turkey and misinform the US and Turkish publics,” read a statement by the Turkish embassy in Washington on Thursday.

US authorities resumed limited visa services in November after Washington made a similar announcement, saying Turkey had revised its way of treating US staff in the country.

Relations between Turkey and the US, both NATO members, have been strained over the last year as Ankara has been demanding extradition of a Turkish opposition cleric based in the US who is blamed for the coup attempt of July 2016.

Washington says there is not enough evidence that Fethullah Gulen played a role in the botched putsch while the cleric himself denies any involvement in the coup that has led to massive imprisonments of Turks.

The mutual resumption of visa services boosted the exchange rates Thursday as lira firmed to 3.78 against the US dollar, its highest level since the diplomatic row began. That was also the case for main share index BIST100 that climbed 2.08 percent to reach its highest closing level ever.