Turkish diplomats are reportedly close to releasing an imprisoned American pastor who is at the center of a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the United States.
According to reports officials in Ankara are willing to concede to US demands for the freedom of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical preacher accused of playing a role in the attempted coup there in 2016.
Officials reportedly know Brunson’s release is the first step to alleviating the diplomatic and economic crises sparked between the two countries, but are aiming for further negotiation with the US.
Turkish officials US last week with the idea of seeking leniency for an investigation into a Turkish bank, which a source said fell through, but opened a dialogue.
In the Turkish courts, Brunson has been unsuccessful in arguing for his release, and on Friday had his latest appeal rejected.
Turkish diplomats said they could release Brunson anyway, subject to further concessions from the US which could soothe diplomatic tensions and helping alleviate the diplomatic and economic crisis.
The Turkish currency lira has been in a steady slide and reached an all-time low earlier this week.Inflation is at a 14-year high, and looks to be on the brink of a major debt crisis.
Its involvement in NATO poses a serious concern of possible worldwide effects of a potential economic collapse.
Though Turkey’s financial troubles did not originate with the battle over Brunson’s release, the moves have sped up the Turkish economy’s decline.
The US doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports and Turkey hit back with $533 million of tariffs on some US imports that include cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks, with the additional warning it would boycott US electronics.
Turkey has found itself in an economic chokehold as Turkish President refuses to allow the central bank to raise interest rates, thereby steadying inflation.
Brunson, an evangelical Christian pastor originally from North Carolina but a longtime resident of Turkey, was accused by the Turkish government of terrorist involvement and playing a role in the Turkish military’s 2016 attempted coup to overthrow the government.
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday night to threaten new sanctions as punishment for Turkey’s detainment of a “great patriot hostage.”
“Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!” he tweeted.
Turkish trade minister responded to Trump’s tweet, telling reporters Friday Turkey would continue to answer to any sanctions from the US “in accordance to World Trade Organization rules.”
Brunson was detained for 1 1/2 years before being released to house arrest last month because of “health problems,” according to the Anadolu news agency.
Over 160,000 including some Americans, have been detained after the government charged them with helping orchestrate the same coup, according to the UN.