Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he hopes an American detained in Turkey will be released in the coming days after US sanctions were recently slapped on Turkish officials.
Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, met in Singapore on Friday to discuss the release of detained American Evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.
He was arrested in December 2016 following a failed coup in Turkey on charges of espionage and “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” – allegations Brunson denies. He faces 35 in prison if convicted.
“I had a constructive conversation with my counterpart yesterday,” Pompeo told reporters. “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.
“I am hopeful that in the coming days that we will see that occur.”
The United States has also been seeking the release of three locally employed embassy staff detained in Turkey.
Asked if the issue threatened Turkey’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Pompeo said: “Turkey is a NATO partner with whom the United States has every intention to continue to work with cooperatively.”
Last week, Washington announced sanctions on Abdulhamit Gul, the minister of justice, and Suleyman Soylu, the minister of interior.
The White House blocked assets and properties belonging to the Turks after accusing them of playing leading roles in Brunson’s detention.
The dispute between the NATO allies has had a growing economic impact on Turkey. Investors’ deepening concerns have sent the lira to record lows and hammered local stocks, as well as Turkey’s debt-risk profile.
Turkey’s foreign minister said discussions will continue with American officials.
“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,” Cavusoglu said after the talks with Pompeo.
The US pastor has lived in Turkey for 23 years and led the Izmir Resurrection Church.
He was held 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 during his trial.
Brunson stands accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt in which 250 people were killed. Gulen denies the allegations.
Turkey has been trying to have Gulen extradited from the United States for two years.
The American pastor was also charged with supporting outlawed Kurdish PKK fighters.