U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened the door Wednesday to removing sanctions against the Turkish government that were implemented in July over the jailing of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
Speaking to reporters following a trip to Ankara, Turkey, Pompeo was asked whether sanctions will be lifted following Brunson’s release on Oct. 12 from detention in Turkey. Brunson, a North Carolina native, had been in jail or on house arrest for more than two years on bogus terror charges.
“Some of the sanctions that were put in place were directly connected to Pastor Brunson, and there’s a logic to now removing those as well,” said Pompeo.
“No final decision has been made. I need to talk to the president about that,” added Pompeo, who said that a decision on sanctions is likely to be made “shortly.” (RELATED: Andrew Brunson Kisses American Flag After Being Released From Turkish Jail)
A Turkish court convicted Brunson on Friday of the terror charges but lifted a travel ban allowing him to return back to the U.S. Four witnesses who previously claimed to have evidence linking Brunson to support for terror groups recanted their testimony. Brunson met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on Saturday.
Brunson’s imprisonment caused a major diplomatic rift between Washington and Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly stated multiple times since Brunson’s jailing that the pastor was being used as a bargaining chip to secure the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, an Erdogan foe living in exile in Pennsylvania.
Erdogan has accused Gulen, a former ally, of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Brunson, who worked as a missionary in Turkey for 23 years until his arrest, was accused of lending support to followers of Gulen, who is considered a terrorist by the Turkish government.
The Trump administration placed a series of sanctions against the Turkish government in July after the Turkish government reportedly reneged on an agreement to release Brunson. Trump reportedly believed that he had struck a deal with Erdogan to secure the release of a Turkish woman from an Israeli jail in exchange for Brunson’s freedom. (RELATED: Trump Places Sanctions Against Turkey Over Jailed American Pastor)
Trump has maintained in recent days that “there was no deal at all” to free Brunson.
Brunson was released just as another diplomatic row was unfolding over the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Pompeo’s main business in Ankara was to meet with Turkish government officials to discuss the Khashoggi case. Turkish government officials have told their American counterparts and the press that they have evidence suggesting that Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was murdered just after entering the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2.
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