US hopes spat with Turkey over pastor resolved in coming days
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he hoped Americans detained in Turkey would be released “in coming days”, following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Singapore which both sides said was constructive.
Washington earlier this week imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers over the case of Andrew Brunson, a US pastor on trial in Turkey for backing terrorism. The United States has also been seeking the release of three locally employed embassy staff detained in Turkey.
Investors’ deepening concern over Turkey’s ties with the United States, a major trading partner, have sent the lira to record lows and hammered local stocks and Turkey’s debt risk profile.
“I had a constructive conversation with my counterpart yesterday. I made clear that it is well past time that pastor Brunson be free and permitted to return to the United States and that the others being held by Turkey also similarly be freed as well,” Pompeo told reporters in Singapore.
“I am hopeful that in the coming days that we will see that occur.”
Speaking after the meeting on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said: “Of course you can’t expect all issues to be resolved in a single meeting. But we have agreed to work together, closely cooperate and keep the dialogue in the coming period.”
He also described the talks as very constructive.
Brunson is charged with supporting a group Ankara blames for orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016. He denies the charges but faces up to 35 years in jail.
He was in a Turkish prison for 21 months until he was transferred to house arrest last week. On Tuesday, a court rejected his appeal to be released altogether during his trial.
He was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the coup attempt in which 250 people were killed. He was also charged with supporting outlawed Kurdish PKK militants. Gulen denies the allegations.
Turkey has been trying to have Gulen extradited from the United States for two years.
Asked if the issue threatened Turkey’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Pompeo said: “Turkey is a NATO partner whom the United States has every intention of continuing to work cooperatively with.”
Washington and Ankara are also at odds over the Syrian war, Turkey’s plan to buy missile defences from Russia and the US conviction of a Turkish state bank executive on Iran sanctions-busting charges this year.