WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday suggested that the United States may lift sanctions on Turkey that are directly related to the case of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.
Speaking to the media at Brussels International Airport after wrapping up his travel to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Pompeo said that “we’ll have a decision on that shortly,” referring to the Brunson-related sanctions.
As to some of the sanctions that were put in place with direct connection to Pastor Brunson, there is a logic to removing those as well, he said.
“But no final decision has been made,” Pompeo noted. “I need to talk to the President about that.”
However, he said there’s “nothing to add” on Turkey’s purchase of the S-300 or S-400 systems from Russsia.
“We talked about issues related to our strategic cooperation on systems like that, but nothing to add in terms of where we’ll go from here,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump denied the possibility of relaxing sanctions against Turkey over the release of Brunson, saying “that was not part of the deal.”
“We had no deal with Turkey. We don’t make deal — any deals for hostages or prisoners,” he said.
“But I will tell you that I feel much differently about Turkey today than I felt about them two days ago,” Trump said. “I have a very good feeling toward Turkey. Two days ago, I did not. So that helped.”
A court in Turkey’s Izmir on Friday afternoon sentenced the 50-year-old pastor to jail for three years, one month and 15 days over terror-related charges, but set him free as he had been jailed since December 2016.
Brunson later on the same day left Turkey for Germany and the United States. On Saturday, he arrived at the White House, where Trump met him.
His release has removed a major irritant in Ankara-Washington ties, as the United States has punished Turkey in August by imposing sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubling tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey.
Turkey then retaliated by raising tariffs on U.S. imports and boycotting U.S.-made electronics, sparking one of the worst diplomatic rows between the NATO allies.
The row contributed to a fall in the value of the Turkish currency, intensifying Turkey’s economic woes including huge debt and high inflation.
The White House said that the United States welcomes the release, adding “we remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of other United States citizens in Turkey and around the world, and urge the resolution of all these cases in a transparent and fair manner.”
Before Brunson’s release, U.S. broadcaster NBC said Turkey and the United States had reached “a secret deal” for Brunson. Turkey would drop some charges against him in exchange for the U.S. easing “economic pressure” including the measures that hit the Turkish currency in the summer.