The U.S. and Turkey have both announced that the travel restrictions set on each other's citizens are now lifted. Three months ago, the arrest of a staff member at the American Embassy in Ankara triggered the disagreement between the two countries and led to the implementation of visa bans on each other.
Though the countries have lifted the travel restrictions, there are signs of a still tense relationship between the two nations who are partners in fighting against the Islamic State group. The U.S. State Department said that it was, "confident that the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the full resumption of visa services in Turkey."
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a statement on their Twitter account announcing the end of the visa restrictions on Turkish citizens. The statement read as follows, “Since October, the Government of Turkey has adhered to the high-level assurances it provided to the United States that there are no additional local employees of our Mission in Turkey under investigation, that local staff of our Embassy and consulates will not be detained or arrested for performing their officials duties – including communicating with Turkish officials also working in an official capacity – and that Turkish authorities will inform the U.S. government in advance if the Government of Turkey intends to detain or arrest any member of our local staff in the future. ”
Following the U.S. official statement, the Turkish Embassy in Washington said that Turkey would also lift the travel restrictions on American citizens. The Turkish mission in Washington read, "Within the framework of the principle of reciprocity, the restrictions placed from our side on the visa regime for US citizens are being lifted simultaneously." However, the statement denied that the Turkish government has offered any assurances in regards to the legal cases in Turkey. The official statement shared on Twitter read, "In regards to assurances cited in the U.S. statement, we would like to emphasize that Turkey respects the rule of law, that our government has not adhered to any assurances on ongoing legal cases.”
Travel restrictions are lifted but tension remains
Washington expressed that it is confident that no other employees are under investigation and that local staff at their embassy will not be detained or arrested for "performing their official duties," a State Department official said. However, US authorities added that "We continued to have serious concerns about the existing allegations against arrested local employees of our mission in Turkey." Ankara responded in a similar way, saying that they too have "serious concerns" regarding cases that involve Turkish citizens who are in the United States.
The relationship between Turkey and the United States has been strained for quite some time. An important issue emerged when Turkey went through a failed coup and the U.S. refused to extradite Fethullah Güle, who has been blamed for the attempted coup by Turkish authorities.
Furthermore, Turkey is a significant player in the fight against ISIS and the United States relies on the airbase located at Incirlik, in the south of Turkey. However, the U.S. support of Kurdish militia is not well-received by Turkey. Though Donald Trump had expressed admiration of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, actions like the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have left a negative impact on many leaders, including Erdoğan.